What is the DSP?

What is the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP)?

The DSP is a responsible apparel purchasing program that uses universities’ buying power to support improved working conditions in factories. The DSP provides a concrete plan to not just respond to violations of workers’ rights but to actively guarantee that the rights of apparel workers throughout the world are being respected. Instead of contributing to the race to the bottom, the DSP ensures that university apparel is made under humane conditions and encourages improvements in the apparel industry.

How does it work?

The DSP ensures that university apparel comes from “designated suppliers” which comply with university codes of conducts by ensuring workers rights to fair wages, freedom of association, no forced or unpaid overtime, and safe working conditions. In other words DSP enforces our codes of conduct, rather than allowing them to continue to be empty promises.

Through the DSP, we assure that our clothes are made under fair conditions, by linking manufacturers’ eligibility to do business with universities with humane treatment of workers on the factory floor.

With the DSP!
*Apparel workers have the right to organize and those who stand up for their rights have protection
*We can wear Carolina apparel with pride because we know they come from factories with humane conditions
*Brands and factories are rewarded with guaranteed business for complying with their codes of conduct
*Universities make real improvements in the working conditions for thousands of apparel industry workers

Without the DSP:
*Apparel workers lose their jobs when they stand up for their rights by forming a union
*UNC apparel is sourced from over 3000 factories where sweatshop conditions are the norm, violating UNC labor codes of conduct
*Factories and brands ignore their codes of conduct in order to keep up with fierce competition
*UNC contributes to the race to the bottom by ignoring poverty wages and widespread abuses in the apparel industry

Why do we need the DSP?

The “race to the bottom” (the extreme pressure on apparel companies to produce at the lowest cost) has forced the closure of many factories that have improved wages and working conditions; this leaves little hope for improvement in sweatshop-like conditions. Without the DSP thousands of workers that have organized for improvements at work have lost their jobs due to factory closures. Under current conditions, workers that stand up for their most basic rights (unforced overtime, safe drinking water, freedom of association and right to leave work when they are injured or sick) are often punished by factory closures or unjust firings.

With the DSP, we are supporting a collaborative process to improve working conditions in the apparel industry: apparel companies have an incentive to enforce their codes of conduct, workers have protection to stand up for the rights and customers can be sure that the apparel that have our universities name on it are made free from exploitation.

Why we need the DSP now!
The BJ&B Story:

The BJ&B factory in the Dominican Republic made hats for brands that sold to various universities. Despite the fact that these universities had codes of conduct ensuring rights at work, the workers at BJ&B faced horrendous conditions including verbal abuse, water infected with ringworm, forced overtime even when workers were sick and injured, unsafe conditions for pregnant workers, etc.

To address these violations, the workers formed a union to protect their rights and to ensure that the factory complied with the brands code of conduct.

Despite the fact that BJ&B was a leader in improved working conditions, fierce competition to produce at the lowest possible cost forced the factory to close in February 2007. The company moved all its orders to other factories that had inferior wages and working conditions. All the progress that had been made to address unsafe working conditions was lost and thousands of workers were left without employment opportunities. The economy of Villa Alta Gracia, Dominican Republic, where the factory was located, was totally dependent on the free trade zone. The closure of BJ&B has put the entire community in crisis, as families that relied on the free trade zone jobs are going hungry with scarce employment opportunities. Many have been forced to move far away from their families to find jobs in domestic service or sex work.

The DSP aims to support factories like BJ&B that have improved conditions and prevent closures of factories that are leaders in labor rights. Instead of punishing workers who stand up for their rights at work, the DSP attempts to provide stable, good jobs in communities that produce apparel for universities.

What apparel workers say about the DSP:
“Universities should support the DSP, because with a program like this the factories will have to respect the law and the rights of worker. It could make a huge difference.
“The clothing brands that we sew for like Nike have codes of conduct with fair treatment, but the reality for us is that none of this was respected in the factory. It was just for show.
“I have the hope that this program will become a success because then finally the factories will be held accountable and will follow the law.”
~Yenny Perez, former BJ&B worker

For more information on the Designated Suppliers Program, including the policy document as outlined by the DSP working group, legal opinions, economic arguments, university statements in support of the DSP, and supporting academic research, please click here.

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