VICTORY! “Badidas” Campaign Forces Adidas to Respect Indonesian Garment Worker Rights

In hard-fought victory, students and workers have forced German sportswear giant Adidas to compensate 2,700 former Indonesian garment workers who produced collegiate apparel at PT Kizone, an Adidas supplier factory that closed down over two years ago. While the contents of the agreement remain confidential, the PT Kizone workers’ press release stated that “the former workers will receive a substantial sum from Adidas” and the settlement will resolve a powerful international campaign over Adidas’s prior refusal to pay $1.8 million in unpaid severance pay following the closure of PT Kizone.

This agreement builds on the historic precedent that USAS activists set with Nike in 2010 when the brand was forced to pay two million dollars in legally owed severance pay to 1,800 former Honduran garment workers.

“For years, workers in the global apparel industry have routinely been robbed of their legally mandated severance pay when factories close. With today’s announcement, students and workers have established a new norm in the global garment industry; the two largest sportswear brands in the world have both acknowledged that they can no longer walk away when their contractors deprive workers of money they have legally earned,” said Lingran Kong, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Adidas’s decision to compensate its subcontracted workers for the first time in history is a victory of the “Badidas” campaign led by United Students Against Sweatshops. After two coast-to-coast worker tours and escalating on-campus actions across the country, the campaign provoked the largest collegiate boycott of a top-three sportswear company in history, with 17 total universities and colleges ending their contracts with Adidas.

These schools include Cornell University, Oberlin College, the University of Washington, Brown University, Rutgers University, Georgetown University, the College of William & Mary, Santa Clara University, Penn State University, Northeastern University, the University of Montana, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Crookston, and Morris, Oregon State University, Temple University, and Washington State University. Allies in Europe, including People & Planet, Clean Clothes Campaign, and War On Want also launched campaigns, bringing incredible international pressure to bear on the company.

While there is certainly more to be done to clean up violations of workers rights in Adidas’s supply chain, USAS is very pleased that the DPC union and the PT Kizone workers coordinating committee have reached an agreement with Adidas that will achieve long-awaited justice for the 2,700 former PT Kizone workers and their families.

Join USAS and the PT Kizone workers in celebrating this victory by adding your name to our letter of congratulations using the form on the left!

USAS statement for the media.

Christina Paxson: Cut the Adidas Contract Now!

For 11 months, the Brown University Student Labor Alliance has called on our administrators to respect the rights of the workers who make our university apparel by cutting Brown’s contract with Adidas in response to egregious violations at the PT Kizone factory in Indonesia. Adidas has refused to pay workers $1.8 million in earned and legally owed severance pay, which is about half a year’s salary for the average worker. This is an unacceptable violation of our contract, and a shameful abuse of the rights of workers in our global community.

Send a message to Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, asking her to cut the contract with Adidas now.

President Paxson has responded to our campaign by dismissing student voices and buying into Adidas’s lies, telling us to “put yourself in the company’s shoes” when we demand action. That’s why we’re rallying on our Main Green in the snow today, demanding that Paxson respect workers and take student voices seriously.

Support our rally by sending an email to Christina Paxson right now and ask her to cut Brown’s contract with Adidas.

UC President Yudof: Cut Adidas Now

Days after we crashed Fashion Week in New York, another showdown over Adidas’s labor practices is about to go down in California. Tomorrow, an important University of California committee is poised to vote on the fate of Adidas in the UC System, and President Mark Yudof needs to hear from you.

Over a year ago, the PT Kizone factory in Indonesia, an Adidas supplier, shut down without paying legally-mandated severance to its 2,800 workers, leaving them unemployed and unable to support their families. Workers are still owed $1.8 million, but Adidas refuses to pay a single penny.

This is not the first time Adidas has refused to take responsibility for its workers. An Adidas facility in El Salvador closed in 2005, leaving employees without $825,000 legally owed them. In at least four more Adidas supplier factories since then, tens of thousands of workers have had millions of dollars in severance stolen from them.

UC administrators are meeting tomorrow to decide whether or not to cut Adidas’s contract, including a multi-million dollar deal with UCLA. Adidas’s behavior clearly violates the ethical and legal standards we stand for, and we will not sit idly by while they continue to run roughshod over the rights of workers who produce UC apparel.

Announcing the Badidas Campaign and Worker Tour

Today, we launch the next stage in the campaign to compel Adidas to take direct responsibility for its sprawling global workforce.

Today, we refuse to accept Adidas’s twisted protestations that it bears no real responsibility for its factories, even as workers continue to burn alive in similar subcontracted garment factory deathtraps across Bangladesh.

Today — in solidarity with Adidas workers across the globe — we announce the launch of the Badidas Campaign and Worker Tour, and our new website, Badidas.com.

It’s been 22 months since PT Kizone, an Adidas subcontractor in Indonesia, shut down without paying legally-mandated severance to its 2,800 workers. 22 months that those 2,800 workers have struggled to make ends meet, pulling their children out of school and being pushed out of their homes as more than two-thirds of them remain out of work. 22 months that Adidas has stubbornly refused to pay a single cent in severance.

Next week, thousands of fashion industry glitterati will descend on New York City for Fashion Week — and Adidas will be there as well, staging a glamorous and expensive gala for its Y-3 fashion line. The glitterati won’t be the only ones attending, though.

USAS is crashing Fashion Week. We’re bringing together garment workers from Bangladesh, Honduras, Nicaragua, and two of the PT Kizone workers themselves. Together with students and workers from across New York, we’re going to show Adidas what we think of its stubborn refusal to respect human rights in its supply chain.

But it doesn’t end there. After Fashion Week, we’re going on tour.

Kicking off in New York City, we’ll go to cities across the country to spread the word about Adidas’s misdeeds, visiting campuses like Fordham University, Penn State, Villanova University, and Temple University in the first week alone.

Sign our petition demanding Adidas take responsibility for its workers, and follow the Badidas Worker Tour’s progress here.

This is just the beginning, and we can’t wait to show you what’s coming next.

PT Kizone Workers Win Right to Intervene in UW v. Adidas Lawsuit

By Melissa Horsfall and Lingran Kong

After months of legal wrangling, the Dane County Circuit Court in Wisconsin has ruled that the union representing former Adidas garment workers has the right to intervene as a third party in the ongoing lawsuit between the University of Wisconsin and Adidas. The UW filed suit against Adidas last summer over the company’s refusal to pay $1.8 million in legally owed severance pay to 2,800 former workers at PT Kizone, a shuttered Adidas supplier factory in Indonesia.

After the workers filed to intervene in September, Adidas maneuvered to try to block the effort, but the judge ruled against the company, recognizing that the PT Kizone workers’ union has the right to intervene because it has differing interests, goals, and strategies than the university. This decision will allow the workers to present their case alongside the Wisconsin Attorney General, who represents the UW.

UW-Madison has an $11 million sponsorship agreement that grants exclusive rights to Adidas to outfit UW athletes. Students, along with community allies like the South Central Federation of Labor and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice have called on UW-Madison to terminate the contract. In November of 2011, UW-Madison’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee recommended that Chancellor Ward cut ties with Adidas, and the Dane County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution this summer supporting the effort.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Cornell University, Oberlin College, the University of Washington, Rutgers University, Georgetown University, and the College of William & Mary have all ended or pledged to end their contracts with Adidas over the PT Kizone violations. The decision by the court to allow the workers’ union to join the suit brings UW-Madison one step closer to joining these six universities in taking a stand to demand accountability and fair labor practices from companies producing collegiate apparel.

Melissa Horsfall and Lingran Kong are students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and members of the Student Labor Action Coalition, a USAS affiliate.

From Seattle to Managua: Victory at the University of Washington and Flying Needle!

By Rachel Shevrin and Morgan Currier, USAS organizers at the University of Washington

Beginning in March 2012, members of University of Washington USAS started a campaign against Adidas over the brand’s refusal to pay Indonesian garment workers at the PT Kizone factory $1.8 million in legally owed severance. Our demand was that the UW sever ties with the brand unless they agreed to remediate their labor violations.

We started our campaign by educating the campus about Adidas through holding a teach-in, followed up by the delivery of a giant check to the President of the University. The check was for $1.8 million dollars and made out to Adidas. We delivered this check to President Michael Young with the hope that he would take action to ensure Adidas paid this money owed to their workers.

After we continued to hold similar actions on campus to put pressure on President Young to cut our contract with Adidas, members of UW USAS put Gregg Nebel, Adidas’ Director of Social and Environmental Affairs, in the hot seat, demanding that he leave a licensing committee meeting a bit earlier than he intended.

After hearing straight from the brand that they had no intention to pay severance to the PT Kizone workers, UW students continued campaigning full force, urging President Young to cut the contract. After more actions took place, including ones where we dressed up like zombies and threw on our PJs in the middle of the afternoon, we had another chance to speak to Mr. Nebel at the annual meeting of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which took place on our campus. Again, in front of his fellow board members, students confronted Nebel directly about Adidas’ refusal to take any responsibility for paying the workers at PT Kizone.

Last week, we received word from President Young that he would be ending our business relationship with Adidas, effective immediately. What is especially significant about this action is that President Young did not include a remediation period that is customary of contract cuts. Because of our strong campaign and Adidas’ blatant refusal to be held accountable, President Young decided to take a harder stance and sever ties immediately with Adidas midway through the contract.

This victory also coincided with another victory for Adidas workers this week. In May 2012, workers at Flying Needle, a Adidas supplier factory in Nicaragua, formed a union to exercise their legal right to bargain for an end to sweatshop conditions in their factory. After the formation of the union, Flying Needle management initiated an aggressive anti-union campaign, which included the illegal firing of 17 union leaders.

After management’s initial wave of 12 anti-union dismissals in May and early June, the union filed a complaint with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Labor. After conducting an investigation, the Ministry of Labor declared these firings illegal under Nicaraguan law on June 8th, stating that “the workers must be reinstated.”

In response to militant worker action and pressure from students, this week Flying Needle agreed to reinstate all the elected union leaders with full back pay! The victory at the UW, as well as other USAS campaigns across the country, offered the support these brave workers needed in order to fight and win against this Adidas supplier.

Still, the events at Flying Needle illustrate fundamental flaws in Adidas’ treatment of workers in its supply chain. Adidas claims to consistently monitor its factories to ensure compliance with local labor law, Flying Needle demonstrates that the opposite is true. For five months, Adidas did nothing to secure the reinstatement of the unjustly fired workers, even after the Ministry of Labor had directed local management to do so. It was only when workers reached out directly to international labor rights organizations and buyers that Adidas acted to encourage their supplier to remediate the violations.

Moreover, Flying Needle is far from an isolated case for Adidas. Union leaders were also illegally fired when they formed unions at Adidas suppliers Augusta Manufacturing (Nicaragua) in March 2012 and Pinehurst Manufacturing (Honduras) in August 2010. Adidas has failed to implement any comprehensive solutions to stem this pattern of anti-union behavior.

Nevertheless, the victories at Flying Needle and the University of Washington are a true testament to the power of student-worker solidarity. From everyone in UW USAS, we look forward to standing in solidarity with other campuses taking action against Adidas because we know WHEN WE FIGHT, WE WIN!

Tell Adidas: Stop Making Excuses — Pay the PT Kizone Workers Now!

Organizations from all over the world are telling Adidas to stop throwing around excuses and finally pay up what they owe the PT Kizone workers in Indonesia. We want Adidas to know that we will not be silenced by empty gestures.

Join the global Facebook action and tell Adidas Nothing Is Impossible!

  • Go to http://www.facebook.com/adidasoriginals and leave your own comments on any of their posts or copy and paste our message:
  • “I’m shocked hear that you are refusing to pay PT Kizone workers the money they are owed — $1.8 million is nothing to you. UNLIKE.”
  • Then, like USAS on Facebook for more actions throughout the week.

Leave your comments, share with your friends, and let the global action begin!

The PT Kizone factory closed in April 2011, leaving 2,800 people out of work and owed $1.8 million in severance. For over a year and a half, 2,800 ex-PT Kizone workers have been fighting for the severance pay they are owed since their boss suddenly closed the factory and fled the country. Over the last six months, PT Kizone workers have been joined by thousands of supporters from across the world who have taken action demanding that Adidas pay up. Despite this, Adidas still insists they will not pay.

The campaign pressure is working: although Adidas continues to deny responsibility, they have tried to deflect criticism by coming up with various schemes to get themselves off the hook, including handing out food vouchers and organizing a summit in Switzerland last month to try to burnish their public image. This is not enough – PT Kizone workers simply want what they are owed and we won’t stop until they get it.

Adidas is feeling the heat, but we need more. We want to show Adidas they can’t ignore us. Together we will continue breathing down Adidas’ neck until the garment workers at the PT Kizone factory are paid the $1.8 million in legally-mandated severance they are owed.

On Eve of Alpine Summit, PT Kizone and Hermosa Workers Lambast Adidas’ Efforts to Shirk Responsibility

The union representing the former PT Kizone workers has written a letter to Adidas calling out the company’s attempts to evade responsibility for payment of the $1.8 million in severance to the workers. In the letter, the workers once again reject food vouchers redeemable at Alfa Mart supermarkets as a legitimate substitute for severance pay:

We told Adidas that Alfa Mart vouchers were not what we need. We need and deserve the severance pay that we earned. However, Adidas refused again to hear our voice. As we have repeatedly told Adidas, our families desperately need money to pay debts, to keep our children in school, to pay rent, and for many other things that are not available at Alfa Mart. Due to their dire need, many workers were forced to beg neighbors or even strangers to buy their Alfa Mart vouchers for much less than they were worth, so that they could use the money to pay for the things they really need. We do not deserve to be treated as beggars, forced to line up outside, without seats, for hours and days only to be given the crumbs Adidas chooses to throw us. We deserve to be paid what we are owed.

After being snubbed in the planning of this week’s Provident Fund summit, the union penned a powerful critique of the summit and the involvement of the Fair Labor Association:

Adidas’ meeting in the Alps is an attempt to distract from the fact that Adidas is still refusing to pay us US1.8 million that we earned while producing apparel for Adidas. It is organized through the Fair Labor Association, which has failed again and again to stand up for workers whose rights are violated, including in the Hermosa case. We do not believe that this meeting will bring justice to us or to any other workers. Before convening international meetings to talk about severance, Adidas should make sure that we — and other workers who have produced for Adidas and been denied severance — are made whole.

Read the entire letter here.

In an inspiring display of international solidarity, SITRASACOSI, the union representing former Hermosa workers, also sent a letter to Adidas exposing the company’s true intentions for holding its alpine summit. The letter’s author, Estela Marina Ramirez, was one of the 260 workers who were laid off without payment of $825,000 in legally mandated severance, wages, and benefits when Adidas pulled out of the unionized Hermosa factory in El Salvador in 2005. Read the letter in Spanish or read the letter in English below:

San Salvador October 17, 2012

Dear adidas Group:

Respectful greetings from SITRASACOSI of El Salvador wishing you success in your entrepreneurial efforts.

As an organization committed to defending the interests of the working class and familiar with violations to freedom of association and basic human rights, we have been victims of all these practices committed by Adidas’ suppliers. We recently learned about a forum that is being convened by your company and its ally, the FLA. In light of this pretense, we would like to express our resounding rejection of the event they are calling the “Global Forum for Sustainable Supply Chains” in Switzerland. We consider this forum a manipulative act because of the lack of representation of the affected workers; the only thing intention of the event is to divert the entire world’s attention, which continues to demand that you assume and comply with your principles of corporate social responsibility that you tout so much. Already a year has passed since the closing the PT Kizone garment factory in Indonesia and seven years since the closing of the Hermosa factory in El Salvador where, in both cases, Adidas did not want to take on the responsibility for benefits like severance pay that were owed to workers from the factory closures. In addition, we want to bring to your attention that, we, as the working class, do not recognize the FLA because it has always demonstrated that it is an instrument controlled by Adidas its other affiliated brands. It is offensive for the working class that you would rather waste money putting on these types of charades than pay the workers affected by closures of factories that supply Adidas, like PT Kizone in Indonesia and Hermosa in El Salvador.

For all these reasons, we demand that Adidas:

1: immediately comply with the corporate social responsibility policies it has with the workers of PT Kizone by providing payment of their legal severance.
2: Initiate, as soon as possible, coordination with unions representing the affected workers with the end goal of delivering the respective payments in accordance with the law.

Sincerely,

Estela Marina Ramirez
General Secretary
SITRASACOSI

USAS Responds to Adidas’ Summit in Switzerland

In its September communication to U.S. universities, Adidas announced it was convening a summit in Switzerland to discuss a new scheme, termed the Provident Fund, which is the company’s latest attempt at evading its obligation to pay the $1.8 million in severance owed to 2,800 former PT Kizone workers. According to the company, the fund “would provide coverage to workers affected by factory closures and non-payment of wages and benefits.” While we welcome comprehensive, long-term solutions to abuses in Adidas’ supply chain, four fundamental flaws undermine the Provident Fund scheme as such a solution.

First, the scheme is being developed under the aegis of the Fair Labor Association and its project, the Global Forum for Sustainable Supply Chains. The FLA is funded and controlled by the very brands they ostensibly monitor, which has resulted in monumental failures like the FLA’s assessment that Foxconn factories were “improving” shortly before worker riots broke out last month. This conflict of interest is also at the root of the FLA’s extreme position that brands are not responsible when their subcontracted workers are laid off without payment of legally owed severance, including at PT Kizone, Hermosa, Hugger, Vision Tex, and other shuttered factories.1 Thus, the FLA’s involvement compromises the fund’s credibility from the start.

Second, Adidas’ summit excludes both the former PT Kizone workers, as well as the former Hermosa workers who, seven years after their factory closed, still have not received any of the severance owed to them by Adidas. Directly affected workers are the most important party in any discussion of solutions to non-payment of severance: it is their livelihoods that are on the line. Moreover, to ensure fairness and accountability in the distribution of any severance fund, workers and their legitimate representatives must jointly administer it. Unfortunately, Adidas’ has shown no signs of including worker representatives in the fund’s administration.

Third, in the brand’s own announcement of the Provident Fund scheme, Adidas pledges only to “facilitate a discussion and evaluate options” on non-payment of severance – an empty rhetorical gesture reminiscent of the company’s pledge to “reopen discussions” with the government of El Salvador about severance for the former Hermosa workers in 2007, which failed to result in a single cent of severance payment. While we can understand why Adidas would want to propose a vague panacea for non-payment of severance in response to public embarrassment and university contract loss at Cornell and Oberlin, these PR stunts have no track record of advancing workers rights.

Fourth, so-called long-term solutions are no substitute for Adidas fulfilling its present severance obligations. In the words of the Worker Rights Consortium, “such programs cannot – from a legal, moral or code of conduct standpoint – be used as Adidas is trying to use them: as a substitute for paying workers the money they legally earned.” Adidas’ subcontracted workers are not demanding glitzy Alpine summits – they’re demanding the severance they are legally owed.

We’ve received word that Adidas has invited several universities to attend the Provident Fund summit. In the absence of full payment to PT Kizone workers and a commitment to including legitimate worker representatives in the discussion and administration of the fund, it would be a grave miscarriage of justice if university representatives were to attend the summit and legitimize Adidas’ hollow Provident Fund scheme. Instead, we call on our universities to uphold their codes of conduct by severing ties with Adidas until the company agrees to take responsibility for its subcontracted workers.

1. Furthermore, this is not the first time that a corporation who violated workers rights called in the FLA to whitewash its violations. In 2008-09, when Russell Athletic, an FLA board member at the time, illegally shut down its unionized factory, Jerzees de Honduras, the FLA released a report clearing the company of wrongdoing, which contradicted the report of the independent Worker Rights Consortium, and even ignored the findings of its own investigator, Adrian Goldin.

Adidas Workers in Indonesia, For Second Time, Reject Insulting Food Vouchers

On Monday, a boisterous crowd of former PT Kizone workers gathered to protest Adidas’ continued intransigence in the face of mounting international and university pressure for the company to pay the $1.8 million in severance it owes to its workers in Indonesia.

Instead of admitting responsibility for its subcontracted workers and correcting the violation, as university codes of conduct require, Adidas has thrown its spin machine into overdrive in an attempt to distract attention from the ongoing crisis with the former PT Kizone workers.

Just last week, the company announced plans to hold a summit in Switzerland to discuss the issue — a move reminiscent of Adidas’ broken promises after the Hermosa factory shutdown to implement a long-term solution to the problem of unpaid severance.

Millions spent on an army of PR spin doctors and a glitzy retreat in the Alps are no substitute for Adidas paying the money owed to its workers.