The University of Notre Dame pledged never to allow merchandise produced in China to bear the school's trademarks. That was 10 years ago, and to this day Notre Dame remains the only major university in the United States to take such a stand against labor practices in China, the top source of U.S. imports.
"What Notre Dame is doing is very, very important," U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), chairman of the Appropriations Committee panel that oversees trade, told Bloomberg's Mark Drajem. "China is a particularly bad place to do outsourcing, and the American people are totally opposed to it."
Wolf added that he intends to encourage universities in Virginia to follow Notre Dame's lead, while prodding his congressional colleagues to make similar pleas in their respective states.
China sent $26.9 billion of toys and sports items, $16.7 billion of footwear and $33.5 billion of apparel to the U.S. in 2010, according to Commerce Department data cited by Bloomberg. Notre Dame, a member of the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium, bars products from other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Laos, Qatar and Turkmenistan, though none is a major supplier of sporting goods.
Notre Dame ranks 11th nationally in licensed merchandise sales, according to the most recent list compiled by the Collegiate Licensing Company, which monitors the $4.3 billion industry while assisting several schools in the licensing process.
The Catholic university in 1997 adopted a standards code requiring freedom of association and the "right for workers to organize and form independent labor unions of their own choosing." Its ban on Chinese products, which came four years later, has limited Notre Dame's ability to partner with certain manufacturers, and often delays delivery of certain goods to the marketplace by as much as a year. Higher product prices dictated by increased shipping costs represent another result of the ban. Still, the university expresses no regrets. Said Michael Low, Notre Dame's director of licensing, "Our approach has been informed by Catholic social teaching, particularly the principle related to economic justice."