The University of Washington has agreed to a contract with Nike that's expected to set a new industry standard. The contract allows a watchdog group, Worker Rights Consortium, to investigate problem factories.
Nike typically uses industry-affiliated inspectors, and in the past has barred the WRC from investigating some overseas factories. UW's chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops started calling for tougher standards after Vietnamese contract workers complained of wage violations in 2015.
The group's Hannah Dolling said UW was part of a strategic push across the country.
Dolling: "Cornell, Georgetown and Northeastern were all able to terminate their contract with Nike, and I think that that really pushed the company so bigger universities like UW wouldn't terminate their contract as well."
Nike said the agreement "provides the WRC with formal access to Nike supplier factories to investigate working conditions when there are reports of noncompliance with labor standards."
United Students Against Sweatshops teamed up with UW's advisory committee on trademarks and licensing to push for that rule. Committee member and professor Michael McCann said it was all about ensuring workers’ rights.
McCann: "This is changing the game, it's changing the standards, but I think we really need to keep in mind this is really about hoping to improve working conditions and wages.
McCann said it's also a big win for the University.
McCann: "This shows the results from positive action when the administration, students and faculty work together. This contract is setting a new industry standard."
UW considered finding a different contractor, such as Under Armour, if Nike didn't agree to the change.
A Nike spokesperson said they are pleased to have a new agreement with the UW and will encourage similar deals with other schools that already work with WRC.