Universities dump Adidas over labor abuses

Cornell and Oberlin have both broken ties with the sportswear giant over treatment of factory workers

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 10, 2012 8:53PM (EDT)


Top universities are dumping sportswear company Adidas over labor rights abuses. As the Nation reported, "Within the last three weeks, Cornell University and Oberlin College both decided to sever ties with Adidas for its refusal to pay $1.8 million in stolen severance pay from 2,800 workers who sewed its products at an Indonesian factory called PT Kizone. Wisconsin's attorney general and Adidas are entangled in a lawsuit after the University of Wisconsin threatened similar action."

The German sports apparel giant has faced a worldwide slew of strikes and protests over sweatshop conditions, wages and worker treatment. "PT Kizone workers rallied in Jakarta to demand Adidas pay the $1.8 million in severance, just hours before three million Indonesian factory workers went on strike to protest sweatshop conditions," reported the Nation, adding:

Beyond the factory walls of PT Kizone, Adidas has failed to pay severance in at least three more cases in Indonesia, totaling $13.7 million to nearly 12,000 workers. This summer at PT Panarub, Adidas's main global supplier of soccer cleats, excessive quotas and anti-union repression led to a bloody police crackdown on 2,000 striking workers.

President of Cornell David Skorton made clear his position on the matter in a letter to Adidas severing the university's relationship with the company. "We believe that severance is a basic worker's right, as are a living wage, freedom of association and safe working conditions," he wrote.

The university's decision to dump the brand came about through awareness-raising and pressure from activist group United Students Against Sweatshops.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Adidas Cornell University Labor Oberlin University Sport Sweat Shops Universities Workers' Rights