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USAS pops up in Bricker Hall for continued sweatshop protests

Dani Wedemeyer / Lantern reporter

About a dozen students gathered outside President E. Gordon Gee’s office Thursday and popped 124 balloons in protest of an exclusive apparel deal that Ohio State is considering.

Members from United Students Against Sweatshops, Occupy the Oval and Students Against Fracking gathered in Bricker Hall to protest. The 124 balloons represent apparel contracts OSU has with various companies. A possible exclusive deal with Silver Star Merchandising, a company associated with the Dallas Cowboys, would eventually push out all existing contracts.

USAS argues that Silver Star Merchandising mistreats its sweatshop laborers, and OSU should not enter an agreement with Silver Star. USAS also argues that it is unfair to the 124 companies who have contracts with OSU, and the deal with Silver Star could possibly hurt these companies financially.

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

Sean Rugg, a second-year in sociology and USAS treasurer, said USAS heard there might be a signing soon, so they have tried to beef up their protests this week.

“We are trying to show the impact this will have by showing how this will affect local business,” Rugg said after walking in holding a couple dozen balloons.

The group read a prepared statement about the reasons they protest the deal to Julie Anstine, administrative director and assistant to Gee, while popping the red balloons.

“We’re receiving their messages and continuing to talk with them,” Anstine said after the reading. “They had a good demonstration, and they shared a message – it’s one that they continue to share with us.”

The protest followed one on Tuesday where students had a lay-down protest on the Oval bearing signs and informing students about Silver Star and its mistreatment of workers.

“I think this was a really visual way of showing all the contracts that we are going to lose through this monopoly licensing deal,” said Natalie Yoon, a third-year in international studies.

USAS also obtained emails between Rick Van Brimmer, OSU’s trademark licensing director, and Bill Priakos, chief operating officer for Dallas Cowboys merchandising. In one of the emails, Van Brimmer 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,” Van Brimmer wrote to Priakos.

Because of the communication between Van Brimmer and Priakos, USAS argues that Silver Star should be disqualified from the bidding process.

Jim Lynch, spokesman for the university, told The Lantern in January USAS and school administrators have frequent meetings about the matter.

“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.”

Rob Battista, a first-year in geography, said USAS wanted the university to know how many companies the deal would affect.

“The balloons resemble all the different contracts that will not be used anymore if the university signs this deal,” Battista said. “We had issues concerning the idea that they might sign the contract over spring break.”

Dan Hope contributed to this story.

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