Athletics Dept. ends linen contract

The Athletics Department will no longer work with New England Linen Supply, the subject of a student protest last week, to supply the golf team, a department official announced last week.

About one dozen students — mainly members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee — marched to Athletics Department headquarters last Tuesday to complain about its contract with the company. They entered the office of Forrest Temple, the senior associate director of finance, facilities and administration, intending to ask him to contact New England Linen Supply about possible mistreatment of workers. Although Temple was not present at the time, he later announced in an e-mail that the department does not plan to work with the company in the immediate future.

Students gather outside Payne Whitney on Feb. 13 before demanding that the Athletics Department pressure New England Linen Supply to improve its labor practices.
Alex L.White
Students gather outside Payne Whitney on Feb. 13 before demanding that the Athletics Department pressure New England Linen Supply to improve its labor practices.

“The department has not used New England Linen since the fall, and our business with them was only approximately $4,000 per year,” Temple said in an e-mail to the protesters. “We do not plan to use them as the contractor for the upcoming golf season.”

Athletics Department spokesman Steve Conn could not be reached for comment Sunday night, but he said last Tuesday that the existing contract was “miniscule” relative to the department’s full expenditures.

Students interpreted Temple’s e-mail as an indication that the University had responded to their concerns. Phoebe Rounds ’07, who helped organize last week’s protest, said she was “surprised” because the “Yale administration is rarely this responsive.” She said that the University’s present positive relationship with its unionized workers likely sparked its taking a “good stand” on this issue.

But another protester, Michelle Castaneda ’09, said she will ask the Athletics Department to take an even bolder step now that it conceded to the protestors’ initial demands.

“I am pleased to see that Yale has committed to not using sweatshop labor through their contractor,” Castaneda said in a press release. “I would appreciate it if Yale would take a proactive and positive role in the community by making a public statement affirming the need for fair labor practices by its contractors.”

Students said they originally protested New England Linen Supply because workers there are forced to work in poor conditions and have been prevented from unionizing. In a protest last year, workers demanded better health insurance and wages. Following student protests, administrators at Columbia University, which also had a contract with the company, recently terminated their relationship with New England Linen Supply.

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