Students Battle a Dallas Cowboys Unit Over College Apparel

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dallas Cowboys have a new merchandising arm that recently jumped into the business of producing college-logo apparel for leading universities, but the Cowboys subsidiary has already encountered a stubborn opponent — student groups that contend it is using overseas sweatshops.

At Ohio State, many students and professors are pressing the university’s administration not to sign a proposed multimillion-dollar deal with the Cowboys’ affiliate, Silver Star Merchandising. And at the University of Southern California, students returning to campus this fall are voicing outrage that their school signed an ambitious 10-year licensing deal with the Cowboys last May while keeping the negotiations secret from the students.

Natalie Yoon, president of the United Students Against Sweatshops chapter at Ohio State, said: “This proposed licensing deal is very problematic given the Dallas Cowboys’ labor history. Just skimming the surface, we found the Cowboys produced merchandise at four factories that have egregious sweatshop violations.”

That anti-sweatshop group, with more than 150 college chapters nationwide, said Silver Star Merchandising had used one factory in El Salvador that, according to monitoring groups, threatened union supporters, had drinking water that was contaminated and illegally forced employees to work huge amounts of overtime. The group cited a second El Salvador plant that factory monitors said had spied on union supporters and put them in worse jobs at lower pay.

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