The University of Washington said Monday that an agreement reached this week between Nike and laid-off workers in Honduras paves the way for the UW to continue doing business with Nike.



The University of Washington said Monday that an agreement reached this week between Nike and laid-off workers in Honduras paves the way for the UW to continue doing business with Nike.

The UW’s relationship with the sports-apparel company has been under pressure in recent months. An advisory committee this year recommended the UW end its contract with Nike because of the poor treatment of laid-off workers.

But Nike announced Monday that it will contribute $1.54 million to a relief fund to be distributed to about 1,500 eligible former workers. The fund will be supervised by a professor at Cornell University and administered by a group representing the former employees.

The dispute arose after two Nike subcontractor factories in Honduras closed in 2009 without paying severance to workers. Nike initially insisted that it was the subcontractors that needed to make amends.

Provost Phyllis Wise, who will soon take the reins as the UW’s interim president, also drew fire from faculty, students and the community after joining the Nike board last year. Hoping to deflect some of that criticism, Wise announced this month that she’s donating all her Nike compensation to student scholarships.

In a statement, departing UW President Mark Emmert said he was “delighted” at the Nike settlement.

“More than taking responsibility for correcting the violations of its subcontractors, Nike’s actions chart a responsible course for its competitors to follow in similar situations,” Emmert said.

The UW said the settlement resolves all outstanding issues with Nike.

In 2008, the UW athletic department signed an exclusive 10-year contract with Nike that is worth a minimum $35 million to the university in cash and apparel.

Students who have been pressuring the UW to end its relationship with Nike because of the Honduras situation claimed victory Monday.

Matt Reed, a senior member of the UW Student Labor Action Project, described the win as “enormous and momentous” — and credited students from across the country for putting enough pressure on Nike that the company changed its practices.

Reed said that while Nike might have cleared up the situation in Honduras, garment workers across the world continue to face human-rights violations.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com