WRC Update: Russell Athletic – Status of Code Compliance

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:December 1, 2009
Re:Russell Athletic – Status of Code Compliance

I write to update you on the Russell agreements that were achieved on November 14. 

As you know, on that date, Russell signed a sweeping accord with the CGT union federation and the Sitrajerzeesh union. On the same day, the WRC and Russell reached agreement on an action plan that incorporates the central provisions of the Russell-CGT-Sitrajerzeesh accord and includes additional commitments by the company.

As we have reported, these agreements, when implemented, will fully address the WRC’s core remedial recommendations: Under the agreements, the company will open a unionized apparel factory in Choloma, near the former site of Jerzees de Honduras; will offer jobs to all of the former JDH employees; will provide substantial financial assistance to these workers; and will take steps that will ensure respect for associational rights at all Russell and Fruit of the Loom facilities in Honduras, including access to these facilities for union representatives and a broad commitment to neutrality and non-interference in workers’ decisions concerning unionization.

Click here to review the key elements of the company-union agreement and here to view the text of the Russell-WRC action plan.

Faithful and effective implementation of the agreements is crucial and I am pleased to report that early indications are very positive in this regard. Several meetings have been held between CGT and Sitrajerzeesh representatives and Russell’s top managers in Honduras. These have been mutually respectful and highly productive – and they have included concrete planning for the prompt commencement of the hiring process at the soon-to-be-opened Jerzees Nuevo Dia factory. Plans are also being shaped for the expeditious distribution of financial assistance to the workers, which is being coordinated by the WRC, the and the CGT. The first round of payments will be carried out either before or shortly after the upcoming holidays.  

These and other early steps are strong indications that the company intends to proceed with dispatch to fulfill its commitments and that the company and the union will be able to work together effectively on the implementation process.

Since the announcement of the accords, many schools that are contemplating how to proceed vis-à-vis their relationship with Russell have contacted the WRC to ask if they should now consider Russell to be in compliance with university labor standards. While implementation is still at an early stage, and while we will continue to monitor the process closely, it is our finding that the early indications of the company’s intent to implement, combined with the strength and scope of the agreements, now warrant the conclusion that Russell has come into compliance with university codes of conduct in its Honduran operations.

Shortly after the holidays, the WRC will provide universities with a follow up report on the implementation process. We will keep you fully informed as the work proceeds throughout the coming year.  

Please note that we will also make available, by mid-week, a synopsis of the conference call the WRC held shortly after the agreements were announced. The purpose of the call was to discuss the accords and answer affiliates’ questions. In addition to presentations by WRC staff, representatives of Russell and of the union joined us for part of the discussion.

As always, please contact me at the WRC office if you have questions or thoughts 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]