Chelsea Castle / Managing editor for content
A group of Ohio State students in United Students Against Sweatshops laid in the entrance of the Science and Engineering Library Wednesday to protest the pending apparel deal between OSU and Dallas Cowboys Merchandising, Ltd.
About 15 students from the group sat and laid on the ground while chanting “We don’t give a damn for sweatshop sweatshirts” in the tune of “We Don’t Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan.”
Campus police were called to the scene about a half-hour into the protest, due to the loud chanting and blocking of the library entrance. Protesters agreed to keep their voices down as to not disturb classes in the building.
Nicholas Pasquarello, a fourth-year in psychology and sociology and co-president of USAS at OSU said the demonstration was important to get the word out to students about their new petition on www.change.org.
“The fact that we’re having meetings with OSU officials where we’re just talking in circles isn’t really doing anything,” Pasquarello said. “We have a goal of getting 1,000 signatures, so we’re out here to boost that number.”
This is the second protest that USAS at OSU has had on campus and is in response to a potential apparel deal between Dallas Cowboys Merchandising, Ltd. and OSU. The group demands the Cowboys’ merchandising company and its off-shoot Silver Star Merchandising be disqualified from the bidding process for an apparel deal. USAS also takes issue with Silver Star alleged use of sweatshops in several countries.
University spokesman Jim Lynch said in a statement on Sept. 26 that OSU is currently talking to license apparel companies, including Silver Star Merchandising, about an exclusive apparel model.
USAS, however, said that OSU 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 its website, obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, between Rick VanBrimmer, director of trademarks and licensing for OSU, 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.
Shannon Hibbard, a second-year in geology, said while she didn’t fully understand what they were protesting, the group got her attention.
“What they’re chanting is pretty catchy,” Hibbard said. “We have so much money. OSU is just being greedy.”
Pasquarello said the petition would help the group gain national recognition and put pressure on OSU.
“This contract is really important because OSU is, in terms of apparel, one of the biggest producers in the nation,” Pasquarello said. “We’re trying to hold OSU accountable and basically say that Dallas Cowboys are an irresponsible contractor and no university should really be doing business with them at all.”
Sarah Dillick, a fourth-year in welding engineering, said she understands what the protestors are doing, but she doesn’t think it will make a difference, and doesn’t plan to sign the petition.
“OSU is a major system in itself, so a handful of students isn’t going to affect anything,” Dillick said. “I never sign anything.”
Lynch said in the university statement that OSU is a member of both the Worker Rights Consortium detailing workshop and the Fair Labor Association, and is a leader on initiatives dealing with fair labor practice.
OSU alumnus Marshall Scott compared the demonstration to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“If anything it’s going to make people aware,” Scott said. “It’s at least gonna make people think, right?”