News Report Identifying Forced Labor in Badger Sport’s Supply Chain

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Ben Hensler
Date:December 18, 2018
Re:News report identifying forced labor in Badger Sport’s supply chain

As many of you are aware, the Associated Press (AP) published an article yesterday reporting that Badger Sport, a university licensee that also owns Garb Athletic (no relation to the university licensee, Garb, Inc.), Alleson Athletic, and Teamwork Athletic, which are non-licensee athletic uniform brands, has had apparel produced in a factory in Western China’s Xinjiang Province by workers who are detainees in a ‘reeducation’ internment center. The center is operated by the Chinese government as a means of controlling and indoctrinating members of the province’s ethnic Uighur population.  The WRC has been working since AP posted its article to gather facts on the situation.

Human rights organizations and media reports have estimated that the Chinese government has arrested and detained up to one million members of the Uighur minority group in these ‘reeducation’ internment centers, where they are denied freedom to worship in their Muslim religion or speak their native language, and – increasingly – are being forced to work in factories set up in by Chinese companies, like the one that has supplied Badger, inside or adjacent to these centers. Detainees in these internment centers report being required to work for little or no pay at menial jobs as “vocational training,” even though they have not been criminally convicted and many had well-established employment before they were arrested.

Forced labor of any kind is a severe violation of university codes of conduct. Badger acknowledged to the WRC today that a factory with the same name and located at the same address as the factory discussed in the AP article produced collegiate licensed apparel, supplied by Badger to university bookstores. Badger has posted a statement today on its website stating that it has suspended placement of orders for products from this factory and will not ship goods it has already received. Badger told the WRC that it will notify universities if their bookstores had received products made at this factory.

While Badger would not confirm to the WRC that the factory discussed in the AP article is the same factory that supplied Badger with collegiate apparel, the facts reported by AP, and additional evidence gathered by the WRC over the last 24 hours, makes clear that they are one and the same. This means that the production of Badger goods at Hetian Taida, where forced labor is utilized, constitutes a particularly egregious violation of university labor standards by Badger. The name and the address of the facility identified by AP, Hetian Taida Apparel, is exactly the same as Badger’s supplier factory. Moreover, the facility’s owner, whose CEO is the head of a longtime Chinese vendor to Badger named Bada Sport, is quoted in the AP article as acknowledging that his factory is located inside the compound where the internment center is located and employs a number of detainees from the center.

Badger is also citing, in its defense, the fact that the Hetian Taida Apparel facility was certified by the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) program, a scheme where factory owners pay for their facilities to be inspected by private auditors and certified as compliant with labor standards. Unfortunately, there is a history of WRAP certifying factories later found to have egregious labor abuses. This appears to be another such case. Indeed, since WRAP presumably would not knowingly have certified a factory that uses forced labor, it appears WRAP’s auditors somehow failed to notice that the factory they were auditing is located in an internment camp. The WRC has asked Badger to provide a copy of WRAP’s report of its audits of the facility, the most recent of which reportedly was conducted on December 3.

The WRC also has noted and made inquiries to Badger concerning the fact that Hetian Taida Apparel does not appear among the facilities disclosed by Badger to universities for production of collegiate licensed apparel – even though this factory has produced such apparel, and even though Badger has disclosed another collegiate supplier factory owned by the same company, Bada Sport.  Badger was not able to provide any explanation for its failure to disclose the Hetian Taida Apparel factory to universities. The company told us it will investigate this issue internally. Whatever the reason, the licensee’s failure to disclose the factory is a violation of its obligations to its university licensors – a violation that is particularly problematic because it had the effect, whether or not this was Badger’s intent, of hiding conditions that are in gross violation of university labor standards. US Customs records show shipments to Badger from the factory, between April and December of this year, that total 247,000 pounds in shipping weight – indicating a sizable number of units were produced for Badger at Hetian Taida.

The WRC will continue to seek further information from Badger concerning the production of its goods by internment camp detainees in Western China and how the company intends to respond to this deeply troubling situation. Simply announcing that it is ceasing placing orders with this particular factory is not an adequate response. Among other issues, it will be important to understand how Badger intends to approach its ongoing business dealings with the factory’s owner, Bada Sport, which supplies Badger from its facility in Eastern China, as well as from Hetian Taida.

We will continue our inquiries and follow up as more information becomes available. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Scott Nova
Executive Director
Worker Rights Consortium

[email protected]