Students strip down in protest

By Todd Avery

The Lantern, Ohio State U. via UWIRE

Students strip down in protest

Several Ohio State U. students were rooting against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, but it had nothing to do with their football team.

A group of OSU students in United Students Against Sweatshops stripped down and protested in front of Bricker Hall on Monday in an attempt to prevent a potential apparel deal between Dallas Cowboys Merchandising and OSU.

In a group of 15 students, all sporting cardboard signs and boxes, most of the men had no shirts on while several women went with only sports bras or strapped shirts to emphasize their point.

“We would rather go naked than wear Dallas Cowboys Merchandising Apparel,” said Terasia Bradford, a third-year in French and sociology.

The protest started in the basement of the Ohio Union where the students got their signs ready and moved on through the Oval while chanting “We don’t give a damn for sweatshop sweatshirts” to the tune of “We Don’t Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan.”

The group traveled to Bricker Hall where they delivered a letter of delegation stating their demands to the secretary office of university President E. Gordon Gee before heading back to the Union.

Nicholas Pasquarello, a fourth-year in psychology and sociology and co-president of USAS at OSU, said the demands included having the Cowboys’ merchandising company and its off-shoot Silver Star Merchandising, disqualified from the bidding process for an apparel deal, to have Rick VanBrimmer, director of trademarks and licensing for OSU, removed from the deal and fired and that students and faculty be allowed to participate in the decision for an apparel deal.

The University of Southern California recently signed a 10-year exclusive-merchandising deal with Silver Star Merchandising.

University spokesman Jim Lynch said in a statement Monday that OSU is currently talking to license apparel companies, including Silver Star Merchandising, about an exclusive apparel model.

USAS, however, said that Ohio State has been secretly communicating with Bill Priakos, chief operating officer for Dallas Cowboys Merchandising Ltd., since spring of 2010 in an attempt to secure the Cowboys bid.

The USAS has emails posted on their website, obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, between VanBrimmer and Priakos. In one of the emails, VanBrimmer responds to questions from Priakos about making a bid.

“The only caveat is that I may be forced into looking at ‘bids,’ simply because we are a state agency. But don’t fear that process,” VanBrimmer wrote to Priakos.

Pasquarello said there are several problems with the deal and Silver Star Merchandising.

“Silver Star has been in communication with Rick VanBrimmer for the past year-and-a-half basically setting up the ground work for Silver Star to come in and take a monopolistic contract for OSU apparel,” Pasquarello said. “It’s going to wipe out the hundreds of independent contracts we already have and basically have all of our apparel solely produced by Dallas Cowboys and Nike.”

Neither Silver Star Merchandising nor the Dallas Cowboy’s organization were able to be reached for comment.

The last problem the USAS has, and why it first got involved against Silver Star, is it believes Silver Star is using sweatshops in several countries.

“Looking on the surface we have found four reports from the Worker Rights Consortium detailing worker abuses in Indonesia, Bangladesh and El Salvador and one from the Fair Labor Association as well,” Pasquarello said.

Both are independent labor-rights organizations that monitor and try to stop the use of sweatshops by companies.

Lynch said in the university statement that OSU is a member of both organizations, is a leader on initiatives dealing with fair labor practice and has scheduled a meeting for Oct. 3 with USAS representatives to hear their concerns.

In Bradford’s opinion, the university has not done enough.

“I hoped in May that the university would make some changes, but we’ve seen that the university doesn’t actually care,” Bradford said. “We are more and more like a corporation and not an institution for higher learning.”

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