In response to adidas’s continued evasion of responsibility for the $1.8 million in severance it owes to 2,800 former PT Kizone workers in Indonesia, students from Western Oregon University, the University of Oregon, Portland State University, and Lane Community College converged on Portland, OR this morning to protest at adidas North America’s corporate headquarters.
In a shocking overreaction, the adidas office was in complete lockdown for the entire two hours that students were present, with security guards preventing students from approaching the building to deliver the nearly 50,000 petition signatures they had brought. Instead of talking with students about the issue, many adidas employees instead came to watch the protest, with some even yelling at students, calling them “hypocrites.”
After the company refused to even talk with them, students wrote a message on the sidewalks, where even adidas executives can’t avoid seeing it. If this is how adidas treats students in Portland, is it any surprise they refuse to pay what they owe to workers in Indonesia?
Yesterday, the campaign went global, with worker rights activists delivering copies of the petition to adidas locations in the UK and Germany. The petition delivery comes exactly two years since failure to pay severance first began at the PT Kizone factory, according to the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights watchdog organization. The delivery also comes halfway through the Paralympic games, which adidas spent millions to sponsor.
adidas has already faced huge pressure to compensate the Indonesian workers; in the US, following student pressure, the University of Wisconsin in July took the unprecedented step of taking adidas to court for their refusal to pay, which the University argues constitutes a violation of its code of conduct. This is the first time that a U.S. university has taken an apparel brand to court over labor violations in its supply chain. In response to international pressure, adidas also recently began offering “humanitarian aid” to the former workers in the form of $35 food vouchers—a sum that falls well short of the half a year’s wages worth of severance that workers are owed. Many of the workers have rejected the food vouchers, calling them insulting to them and their families.