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September 11, 2014

Pitt backs Bangladesh safety pact

Pitt has joined a growing number of universities to require their licensees whose logo products are made in Bangladesh to sign a key worker-safety accord.

Under pressure from No Sweat, a consortium of Pitt student groups in opposition to sweatshops, the University put its licensed apparel suppliers on notice that it would no longer do business with licensees who are not signatories to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Citing the University’s “commitment to the ideal of safe, healthy working conditions and human rights for those who toil to produce apparel and other items that display University of Pittsburgh names and marks,” in an Aug. 11 letter to licensees, Pitt licensing coordinator Lori Burens wrote:

“Following the University’s review of the relevant issues, the University has decided to ask its licensees that source, produce or purchase apparel in Bangladesh under a University of Pittsburgh license to sign the Accord. Therefore, if you are/were sourcing, producing or purchasing apparel in Bangladesh under a University of Pittsburgh license as of July 1, 2014, or at any time thereafter — and if you have not already done so — you should sign the Accord no later than October 1, 2014.  If you fail to do so, that failure will result in the termination or non-renewal of your University license.”

The accord establishes a five-year fire and building safety program to protect garment workers in Bangladesh.

The legally binding agreement among international trade unions IndustriALL and UNI Global, Bangladesh trade unions and international brands and retailers was established in May 2013 following the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed more than 1,000 garment workers and injured thousands more. The incident drew attention to factory safety conditions in Bangladesh, where fires and building collapses are among the workplace dangers for garment industry workers.

The accord calls for the establishment of health and safety committees and safety inspections of factories, covering both the signatories and their suppliers.

The accord’s website ( states that more than 150 apparel companies from 20 nations have signed the accord, which, as of Sept. 1, covers 1,572 factories employing more than two million workers.

Pitt students previously pressed the University to join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), one of the groups that drafted the accord. WRC compiles a list of factories where licensed university logo products are manufactured and monitors working conditions in those factories. Pitt joined WRC a year ago and is now among 180 universities affiliated with the group.

Burens noted in the Aug. 11 letter to suppliers that Pitt has been working with the College Licensing Co. (CLC) on new workplace code standards for University licensees, adding that licensees are expected to comply with WRC and Fair Labor Association workplace standards in alignment with Pitt’s affiliation with those groups.

The University contracts with CLC, a division of IMG College, for its logo product licensing services. CLC on a quarterly basis submits licensees’ factory disclosure data to WRC on Pitt’s behalf.

That information appears in a searchable database at The WRC does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the list, which is dependent on licensees’ disclosure and which is subject to seasonal or year-to-year changes.

IMG College spokesperson Andrew Giangola told the University Times: “Most University of Pittsburgh licensees who have disclosed product sources in Bangladesh have signed the Bangladesh Accord. Beyond the initial implementation of the accord requirement by the University, CLC will support the University’s decision to require the accord as licensees disclose new Bangladesh sources to the University through CLC. This disclosure is a contractual requirement of the trademark license agreement that CLC facilitates on the University’s behalf.”

A search of the WRC database listed 15 factories in Bangladesh as producing Pitt-licensed products as of July 2014, the most recent month available. All but four were listed as covered factories on the accord site. And, of the dozen licensees whose products were listed as being made at those factories, all but four (Bruzer Sportsgear, AS, College Vault and Captivating Headgear) appeared as accord signatories.

CLC, which represents nearly 200 colleges, universities, bowl games, athletic conferences, the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA, ranked Pitt No. 51 on its top-selling institutions for fiscal year 2014. CLC estimated the market for college-licensed merchandise in 2013 was $4.59 billion.

According to the national United Students Against Sweatshops, the other institutions that have required their licensees to sign the Bangladesh Accord are: Duke, Penn State, University of Washington-Seattle, Penn, New York University, Temple, Cornell, Georgetown, Brown, Syracuse, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Columbia, Emerson College, University of Michigan, Macalester College, Rutgers, American University, Northwestern, University of Illinois-Chicago, Washington State, George Washington, Michigan State, Grand Valley State and Arizona State.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 47 Issue 2