In the wake of the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,134 people, students have called for the University of Wisconsin to cut its contract with Jansport.
Jansport, a subsidiary of VF corporation and a company licensed to use the UW logo, is under scrutiny from the Student Labor Action Coalition for their refusal to sign the Bangladeshi Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
The Accord is a legally-binding contract between companies and unions that requires factories to submit to inspections by fire safety experts and provide funding to fix any found hazards. The contract also requires that workers and their unions play a central role in the safety inspections and publicly report the inspections’ results.
SLAC member Luke Gangler said the group has been pressuring Chancellor Rebecca Blank to address the situation.
The group attempted to meet with Blank April 24 to deliver a “Jansport Cake,” asking her to “cut-the-cake” with Jansport and terminate the business relationship. However, Blank did not meet with SLAC on that day.
“Essentially our goal is to make sure Chancellor Blank keeps her promise to hold businesses accountable to the Bangladeshi Accord on Fire and Building Safety,” Gangler said. “We’re going to do what it takes to make sure UW students know what’s going on. We’ll be working to keep the pressure on the chancellor and make sure she has no other choice but to terminate the contract with Jansport.”
UW currently holds contracts with 448 companies, allowing them to use and distribute products with the university name and logos. Twenty-one of these companies produce products in Bangladesh, and 11 have signed the accord.
Earlier in March, UW announced that it would require all 21 of those companies to sign the accord by July 30, 2014.
UW Trademark Licensing Director Cindy Van Matre said VF corporation refused to sign the accord because it was already part of another alliance, called the Alliance for Bangladesh.
“Jansport has had a separate licensing agreement since 1988, and they do not source any products out of Bangladesh,” Van Matre said. “It’s still under review. The university focus is on companies that actually source from Bangladesh.”