June 29, 2009
On June 25th 2009, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) put its member company Russell Athletic on Special Review for 90 days. The FLA's Special Review process requires the company to perform specific actions to address violations of workers' freedom of association related to the closure of the Jerzees de Honduras (JDH) factory. This is only the second time in the FLA's history that a member company has been placed on Special Review. If Russell fails to complete the required steps in 90 days their FLA membership may be revoked.
Students protest Russell Athletic
Russell Athletic has been under fire for months for failing to remediate damage done to the JDH workers, the workers CGT union, and their right to freedom of association when they closed the JDH factory earlier this year. While Russell Athletic insists that their only motivation for the closure was economic, two independent investigations have concluded that anti-union bias was in fact a significant factor in the decision to close the JDH factory.
In February, the FLA Board asked Russell to undertake an initial series of steps, only some of which have been addressed by the company. Recently, new violations of freedom of association - including the establishment of "collective pacts" (akin to company unions) in the company's remaining Honduran facilities - have been detailed in a new report issued by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC).
The FLA cited Russell Athletic's "failure to engage in good faith negotiations with the CGT union on issues like compensation for terminated employees, a meaningful first-hire policy and reasonable access for unions to company factories." The FLA further noted that "the existence of 'collective pacts,' no matter their motivation, has the effect of undermining efforts by independent unions to organize workers. These circumstances have led to a high level of distrust among workers and other stakeholders of Russell's commitment to freedom of association."
In order to have the Special Review lifted, Russell Athletic must, amongst other things, engage in good faith negotiations with the CGT union regarding further compensation and benefits for all JDH workers, an effective first-hire policy, and reasonable access of union organizers to employees. The company must also negotiate measures with CGT to ensure the removal of any obstacles to freedom of association, including those posed by collective pacts (pactos colectivos), without depriving workers of existing benefits.
Russell is also being asked to engage with relevant stakeholders including FLA member universities, the WRC, the Clean Clothes Campaign and MSN.