Georgetown University in 2012. (Jeffrey MacMillan for The Washington Post)
In December, students at Georgetown University staged a sit-in, protesting the school’s licensing agreement with Nike over concerns regarding labor practices. Months later, Georgetown and Nike have reached a new agreement that includes guidelines for investigations into the working conditions of factories.
The new protocol ensures that the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights monitoring organization, will have access to Nike’s supplier factories. It also bolsters coordination between the consortium and the sportswear company when a violation is identified and change is needed.
The protocol was approved last week and incorporated into a new retail licensing agreement between Nike and the school, which was signed last Friday, according to a Georgetown spokeswoman.
“We now have a road map together for how we coordinate, which we didn’t have before,” said Hannah Jones, Nike’s chief sustainability officer. “This protocol helps us to establish how we will work together in a much clearer way.”
The licensing agreement is related to Georgetown University apparel such asNike-produced T-shirts, items that would normally be for sale in the university bookstore. It is not the same as a sponsorship deal, though Georgetown also has a sponsorship agreement with Nike.
Students who participated in the December sit-in were pushing for the private university to end its Nike licensing agreement, which was set to expire Dec. 31.
The students noted a report by the Worker Rights Consortium, which found that factory workers in Vietnam endured poor treatment, including not being allowed bathroom breaks and being padlocked in the factory.
“Our job, on behalf of the university, is to determine whether or not violations have occurred,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium. “In the case of that facility, we identified a number of significant labor rights violations and have been working since then to try to get them corrected.”
[Previously: Georgetown students protest ties with Nike]
Georgetown let the licensing agreement with Nike expire, and was not the only school to do so. Instead of abandoning the matter, though, Georgetown then was involved in creatingthe new guidelines.
“As a university, we are able to realize our commitment to the safety, welfare and rights of workers through principled and practical engagement,” Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia said in a statement. “This protocol is animated by our shared commitment to workers’ rights and a belief in the dignity and worth of every individual.”
Nike’s Jones said there was a breakdown in trust and communication between the parties but that Georgetown ultimately played a pivotal role by recommending mediation on the basis of “a shared vision of good.”
“We were pretty easily, very quickly, able to establish that we did indeed have a shared vision of good, which is ultimately to impact system change across the apparel and footwear industry for workers; that was something that was really — we were all passionate about,” Jones said. “What we weren’t agreeing on, per se, was the ways to get there.”
Nova said it was important to understand the special nature of the university labor standards.
“Every brand and retailer in the garment industry has its own labor code and monitoring program, but those are voluntary programs, created by each brand and retailer itself,” Nova said. “What is special about the university codes is that they’re binding, they’re part of the contract between the university and the brand.”
Because of that, and because the Worker Rights Consortium can carry out independent inspections, the university codes have been effective at creating change for workers, Nova said.
“They’ve been a powerful instrument for improving conditions in a difficult industry,” Nova said.
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The week flew by — I finished LL.M. orientation at Georgetown University Law Center, got acclimated to my new apartment, and even managed to get some sightseeing in.
Being back in school isn’t as weird as I thought it would be. Georgetown University Law Center has a standalone campus in the heart of Washington D.C. and the facilities are definitely an upgrade from the University of Minnesota, where I earned my J.D.
GULC is significantly bigger than U Minnesota — about three times larger. The Georgetown LL.M. class alone is about the size of the Minnesota J.D. class.
The size of the LL.M. program means that it has a lot of dedicated resources — significantly, a five-person career center staff who emailed extremely helpful information and guides throughout the summer.
Another thing that impressed me is that the vast majority of LL.M. professors are adjuncts and local practitioners. This means that GULC has a significant presence in the D.C. tax community and there’s always someone around to answer questions about a particular firm or agency.
The buildings at GULC are new-ish and there’s a large security presence on campus. I am not sure how much of the security is due to the school’s urban location and how much security is in anticipation of the president’s daughter starting as a 1L this semester.
Security guards are posted at most building entrances on the campus. This was highly convenient this week because the security guards patiently answered all of my questions — no matter how stupid. Where do I get my student card? Where is the library? How do I get into the parking garage? (The entrance was right in front of me.)
A library at Georgetown University Law Center.
Orientation was easy and largely uneventful.
The LL.M. students fell into two camps:
- Those who spent the summer neurotically pouring over the numerous student websites, handbooks and lengthy newsletters.
- Those ignored all school emails after the acceptance and tuition deposit letters.
Jill¹ and I were among the first group of students — we read every email over the summer, had already met with the school’s career advisors, selected certificate programs, and largely finalized our class schedule. We also interviewed at law and account firms the week before orientation (the application deadline for many externships and clerkship resume reviews was August 14).
Jack fell into the second group of students — he was largely unaware of the certificate programs and missed the externship deadlines.
Some parts of orientation were incredibly boring for Jill and I because the sessions largely covered information that had already been emailed to us over the summer. Meanwhile, Jack was hearing everything for the first time and struggled to keep up.
I couldn’t decide whether I felt bad for Jack or not. On the one hand, it must be horrible to learn that you’ve missed out on certain opportunities for the fall semester because of super-early deadlines.
Then again, the first communications from GULC warned of encroaching early deadlines and the importance of the summer emails.
Redundant sessions and email blunders aside, orientation was a success. The most valuable part of orientation was meeting some of my new classmates (who are literally from all over the globe) and listening to the various alumni panels. My schedule also got some helpful tweaking by the LL.M. academic advisor — drop this, add that.
Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C.
One curious thing that wasn’t covered during orientation was how we were supposed to get our first week reading assignments. Nothing was on TWEN and none of my professors had emailed anything out prior to orientation. I didn’t want to be that student who was unprepared during the first day of class, but proactively emailing professors seemed obnoxious.
The syllabus notifications came late Thursday from a system called Canvas that none of us had ever heard about. Perhaps that was mentioned in an email that I missed?
The biggest shock of the week came when I attempted to buy my books at the GULC bookstore. Although I learned my J.D. a long time ago, I distinctly remembered how expensive law books are and I was prepared to drop about $1,000 at the bookstore.
After 10 minutes of searching, the bookstore clerk told me that there were no required books for any of my classes. I almost fainted.
This is going to an exciting (and hopefully cheap) semester.
Classes start Monday.
¹Jack and Jill are pseudonyms. See the disclaimer for more information.0