Students speak out against Adidas
By Kaylie Duffy
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 9:41 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, March 28, 2012 1:32:59 a.m.
The Student Labor Action Coalition hosted an informational session Wednesday evening to discuss Adidas’ alleged labor violations in Indonesia.
According to SLAC member Taylor Marx, colleges including the University of Wisconsin have contracted with owners of sweatshops whose workers are not getting rightfully paid. One such incident involves an Adidas-contracted factory in Indonesia, called PT Kizone, which shut down more than a year ago without paying 2,800 workers.
In 2001, UW signed on with Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization that ensures universities are avoiding contracting with sweatshops.
Nike reported that PT Kizone was shut down in January 2011, and the owner had fled the country. In November, Adidas announced its relationship with PT Kizone was terminated 10 months before the factory was shut down. However, WRC found that workers’ rights issues with the factory started in 2010.
Nike and other companies have since compensated the unemployed workers of PT Kizone, but Adidas has refused to pay them, he added.
“Workers were still owed $1.8 million,” Marx said. “We as a university should make sure the WRC codes of conduct are followed.”
WRC discovered last November that 32 workers were yet to be compensated for severance pay.
Marx said Adidas should be held responsible for the workers’ pay.
“Either Adidas didn’t know these things were happening, or they didn’t say anything about it,” Marx said. “That would be terrible.”
ASM Shared Governance Committee Chair Beth Huang said interim Chancellor David Ward has refused to listen to students’ voices on the Adidas matter and continues to work with the company in a mediation period.
SLAC member Sarah Blaskey said the mediations have not been effective. She said the discussions take place behind closed doors, and Adidas has already made several public announcements they will not pay PT Kizone workers.
“It’s been a year since these workers have not been paid, and people are still sitting behind doors talking about it,” Blaskey said. “To me, that doesn’t seem right.”
Madison’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee has recommended UW place Adidas on notice because it was clear Adidas had violated Wisconsin’s code of conduct. She said the chancellor has to comply with LLPC or explain himself to the Associated Students of Madison.
“Ward rejected LLPC’s decision to put Adidas on notice and did not give them reasons why,” Huang said. “If we let the university say our student decisions are just advisory, we lose our voice.”
According to Blaskey, the organization wants UW to establish a 90-day notice of breach of contract.
Huang said SLAC is engaged with worker justice, and the organization realizes the use of sweatshop labor reflects the integrity of UW as an institution.
Blaskey said UW’s self-sustaining athletic program gives the university flexibility in a lucrative market. Many companies want to contract with universities, she added.
“We need to hold the university accountable,” Blaskey said. “We need to stand up for workers without a voice.”