Cornell Students Against Sweatshops Accepts Sol Stetin Award

Today, Cornell Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS) was recognized by the American Labor Museum in Haledon, NJ for its crucial efforts in gaining justice for Honduran garment workers in their campaign against Nike.

The Sol Stetin Award, which honors outstanding individuals or organizations for their contributions to working people, was presented to Alex Bores ’13, President of CSAS, who accepted it on behalf of the organization and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). Other winners this year were Captain John H. Prater, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association, and James D. Sinegal, the president and CEO of Costco.

“It was exciting to see the support and recognition that student activists receive from the labor movement,” said Gleb Drobkov ’12, treasurer of CSAS. “Many of the people in the room spoke of Alex, the current members of USAS, and our organization’s alumni as the future generation that will revitalize the debate over workers’ rights across the world.”

Past winners of the award include Pete Seeger, world renowned folk singer, Bruce Raynor, then president of Unite Here!, and Bill Pascrel Jr., U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 8th congressional district.

“It was an honor just to be in a list with some of the past recipients,” said Bores. “However, it is important to remember that the work we did was nothing compared to the hardships endured by the Nike workers themselves. They are the ones who truly deserve this award.”

United Students Against Sweatshops played a critical role in making sure that Nike took responsibility for the actions of its subcontractors.

Last semester, students and workers forced Nike, the largest sportswear company in the world, to compensate 1,800 formerly subcontracted workers at Hugger and Vision Tex, two Honduran factories it closed in January 2009. The compensation package included the $1.5 million in legally mandated severance pay, priority hiring by Nike’s other Honduran suppliers, and nine months of medical care through the country’s social security system, among other benefits.

Members of CSAS and Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA) waged a 6-month campaign to pressure Cornell University to drop Nike. The students organized educational teach-ins, got endorsements from over 30 Cornell organizations, collected signed petitions from over 1,100 students, passed faculty and student government resolutions calling for a contract cut with Nike, brought worker representatives from the two affected factories in Honduras to speak on campus, and held “Working Out for Workers Rights” exercise sessions that led to the Cornell Daily Sun endorsing their campaign, among many other actions.

The results of these actions were seen on June 30, 2010, when Cornell’s President, David Skorton, notified the University’s Licensing Oversight Committee of his decision to let Cornell’s contract with Nike expire at the end of December 2010, unless the sports-giant corrected labor violations at two of its former supplier factories in Honduras. In a matter of weeks after President Skorton’s decision, Nike finally decided to uphold its legal and moral responsibility.

The American Labor Museum took notice of this story by reading national coverage of the victory in the New York Times.

CSAS hopes the award will help bring more attention to the anti-sweatshop movement on campus and around the globe. “This movement has been growing for a while, and we are proud of the progress we have made thus far,” said HJ Lee ‘12. “But there is a still a lot more to do.”

Gleb Drobkov, HJ Lee, Alex Bores, Bill Peterson, and Debby Cho holding the Sol Stetin Award

Gleb Drobkov, HJ Lee, Alex Bores, Bill Peterson, and Debby Cho holding the Sol Stetin Award

About the Author

Alex Bores is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. He was born and raised in New York City by two union members. Alex does labor research with Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner. Alex is the treasurer of the Cornell Roosevelt Institute, Treasurer of Conflict-Free Cornell, Vice President for Community Outreach of Half in Ten, Vice President of the Cornell Forensics Society and President of Cornell Students Against Sweatshops.