Two New WRC Reports Concerning Russell Athletic


Dear Colleagues,

Below, you will find links to two investigative reports issued today by the WRC concerning Russell Athletic (both documents have executive summaries).

1) One report concerns new and serious violations of workers’ associational rights committed by Russell in Honduras since the closure of Jerzees de Honduras was announced: the implementation of a system of company unionism at six of its factories. The company’s actions include the imposition of labor contracts written so that the benefits they contain are stripped from workers if they choose to join a legitimate union. These structures, knows as solidarist associations, are used by some companies in Honduras as a means of discouraging workers from exercising their associational rights. Russell’s actions are in blatant contravention of ILO standards on freedom of association, including ILO Convention 98, which Honduras has ratified. Russell has installed these management-controlled labor organizations at the same time that the company has asserted that it is taking measures to protect the associational rights of workers at its Honduran factories. This report can be accessed here: Analysis of Collective Pacts  

2) The second report is an analysis of interviews recently conducted by the WRC with more than a hundred workers from four Russell factories in Honduras. The purpose of this inquiry was to determine whether the corrective action plan Russell reports having implemented has been successful in convincing most workers in the company’s Honduran operations that they can exercise their rights of association without fear of retaliation. The interviews show that most workers do not believe they can freely exercise their right to organize – and believe that doing so would draw both personal and collective reprisals from factory management. The interviews specifically show that the primary element of Russell’s plan, communications to workers pledging to respect freedom of association, is not solving the problem. Most workers interviewed are either unaware of the company’s pledge or do not believe it to be sincere. This report can be accessed here:Analysis of Employee Interviews

We were especially alarmed to learn that Russell has, at least in many instances, coupled its pledge to respect associational rights with statements to workers discouraging them from doing so. Specifically, workers report managers telling them that unions, while allowed, are unnecessary because of the benefits the company already provides and that workers should not form a union without first talking to management. The entire purpose of the exercise was to address the climate of fear created by the company’s past actions by reassuring workers that they can join a union without fear of retaliation from management. It was therefore both inappropriate and counterproductive for management to couple its communications with an anti-union message. As the interviews indicate, many workers perceived these statements as an implied threat.

These two reports indicate that:

A)      The steps Russell has reportedly taken to remediate its past violations have failed with respect to associational rights at the company’s current Honduran facilities, and

B)      Russell has exacerbated the situation by committing a new and severe set of violations: the institution of a system of company unionism throughout its Honduran operations.

Sweeping measures will be needed to restore the associational rights of Russell’s current employees in Honduras – including measures to dismantle the system of company unionism Russell has recently installed. The reports include detailed recommendations.

The WRC continues to hope that Russell will reverse its course of action and take the steps necessary to protect freedom of association in its Honduran operations. At present, the company remains in severe violation of university codes of conduct.

Please contact us if you have any questions about this communication.



Scott Nova
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292
[email protected]