Striving to Uphold the Code

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After the Cal Student Store pulled sweatshirts made in Myanmar from its shelves last week, concerns have surfaced about how UC Berkeley can ensure that merchandise bearing its name is manufactured under good working conditions.

Sweatshirts produced by JanSport and bearing the UC Berkeley trademark were sent back to the company last Friday. The merchandise was made in Myanmar, also known as Burma, a country currently run by a military dictatorship and notorious for its human rights violations.

University officials said all of their contractors must comply with the UC Code of Conduct for Trademark Licensees.

"The university will do business with licensees whose workers are present to work voluntarily, are not at undue risk of physical harm, are fairly compensated and are not exploited in any way," the code of conduct states.

The campus, however, currently has no way of ensuring that merchandise sold in the student store is made under good working conditions.

Products for sale in the store have been made in several countries often held up for questionable labor practices, including China, Guatemala and the Philippines.

"At this point, the university on a systemwide basis is constructing a monitoring program," said Maria Rubinshteyn, UC Berkeley's director of marketing and management of trademarks. "Unfortunately, we haven't exactly established how they're going to do the monitoring."

Currently, the university relies on information provided by contractors about factories where logo merchandise is produced.

"We basically have to understand that (contractors) are doing their own internal self-investigations," Rubinshteyn said. "This is a new process for all of us. We're taking whatever steps we can to ensure that all the merchandise with the Cal logo is made under good working conditions."

Rubinshteyn said that if the university becomes aware of a violation, it may terminate the contract with the manufacturer as a final recourse.

"We would rather work with the company to reconcile any violations we may find," she said.

The university contacted JanSport after being notified that the sweatshirts were manufactured in Myanmar. Marcy Lynn, a JanSport spokesperson, said the controversy was a result of one the company's manufacturers violating the code of conduct.

"What we found is that some JanSport apparel was contracted out to a company based in China, and unfortunately that contractor had a plant in Myanmar, unknown to JanSport," Lynn said.

The JanSport trademark compliance department discovered the factory in Myanmar in June and took steps to transfer production to other factories owned by the contractor.

The sweatshirts sold in the Cal Student Store arrived in April, before JanSport discovered the violation of company policy.

Upon learning of the violations of their code of conduct, the company launched an internal investigation about the issue and discontinued its contract with the manufacturer of the Burmese clothing, Lynn said.

"We're glad that the compliance department uncovered it," she said. "We are no longer doing any business with that contractor in any company."

Lynn said that JanSport does not do business in or with Myanmar and will continue to look into code of conduct violations.

"We're going to keep looking into it and finding out where our process went wrong," Lynn said. "We want to find out why we didn't know from the beginning and ensure that it doesn't happen in the future."


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