A group of Ohio State students in United Students Against Sweatshops marched through the Oval Tuesday, continuing their opposition of Silver Star Merchandising, and in response to a recent ESPN exposé.
Silver Star, a company associated with the Dallas Cowboys organization, is bidding for an exclusive merchandising deal with the university, and members of USAS said this is a deal the university should not be involved with.
On Sunday, USAS was featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” story about overseas sweatshops, in particular Silver Star Merchandising. Issues of poverty wages, such as 29 cents an hour, long hours and physical abuse were highlighted in the story.
“This tactic puts pressure on them and helps inform people about what’s going on. It keeps visibility up,” said Nick Pasquarello, a fourth-year in psychology and sociology and president of USAS.
Another main focus of the ESPN story is the discussion of Bill Priakos, Dallas Cowboy’s merchandising operation leader. According to USAS, Priakos said he is trying to convince OSU to give Silver Star exclusive rights apparel.
USAS said that OSU has been secretly communicating with Priakos 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.
Silver Star Merchandising was unable to be reached for comment.
Protesters held signs that read “Stop the scandals” and “Stop the lies,” along with pictures of factory workers.
“I want our university to know that I don’t want sweatshop apparel to represent our school,” said Lainie Rini, a first-year in exploration. “Our school should be supporting fair labor.”
This was not the first rally that USAS has held on this issue, as demonstrations happened multiple times during Autumn Quarter.
“If we do an action today, it will build momentum and student recognition and hopefully get more of the student body behind us,” said Rob Battista, a first-year in engineering.
During the demonstration, other students stopped to inquire about the cause.
“The drums made me stop, I thought it was really cool,” said Breonna Carter, a third-year in comparative studies and Spanish. “What they are doing is inspiring and I think everyone should be treated with respect.”
After marching from the Union, through the Oval and to the steps of Bricker Hall, the group drew the attention of many students. The group entered the building, and protested in front of President E. Gordon Gee’s office, which was guarded by Ohio State Police. At that point, the rest of the protest was short as the protesters presented demands to officers in front of Gee’s office.
Jim Lynch, spokesman for the university, said in an email Tuesday that the university is actively talking with USAS to hear its voice.
“The university has been engaged with USAS representatives and has been having good conversations with them about their concerns,” Lynch said. “We are hopeful that our continued dialogue with them will help us advance the broader issues of how to continue to improve social responsibility programming.”
Pasquarello said the university and USAS have different definitions on what makes a good conversation.
“The school has set up an advisory committee which the decisions will go to for discussion, but we would have no voting power,” Pasquarello said. “It is just a means to distract us and at the end of the day, they aren’t listening and its just about making them look good.”