Cornell University Takes A Stand For Garment Workers, Cuts Ties With JanSport

Cornell University cut ties with backpack staple JanSport late last week over its parent company's refusal to sign an agreement to improve working conditions at its factories in Bangladesh.

President David J. Skorton told VF Corporation, the parent company of JanSport, to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh by Sept. 30, 2014. The Accord, a legally binding agreement between several unions, non-profits and NGOs, is a five-year commitment for retailers to improve safety of factories in Bangladesh.

Several hundred workers were killed in a Bangladeshi garment factory building collapse in 2013.

"The sheer size of VF's presence and influence in Bangladesh behooves the company to support all initiatives designed to improve worker and factory safety in that country," Skorton said in a statement. "Although VF and JanSport are separate business entities, VF's practices regarding labor compliance and practices govern all production globally and are applied to all VF subsidiaries."

Student activists had pushed Cornell to cut ties with VF Corporation and stop selling JanSport on campus due to the company not signing the accord.

Fourteen universities, including Arizona State University, Penn State University and Syracuse University, have cut ties with VF over garment factory concerns, Bloomberg Businessweek notes. Students have pushed 22 schools, including American, Brown, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, New York University, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others, to formally require apparel brands to sign the accord as condition for producing their college-branded apparel, according to United Students Against Sweatshops.

VF Corporation also owns North Face, Vans and Timberland.