December 5, 2012
Vol: 19 No: 49

News

UW gives Adidas contract the boot after conceding to student demands

by: Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

“The bottom line is that [Adidas’s] handling of the situation does not meet our expectations for the humane and ethical treatment of workers who produce UW licensed products” - UW President Michael Young

In late October, University of Washington students dress as zombies to protest the university’s contract with Adidas. The athletic apparel company refuses to pay $1.8 million in legally owed severance to Indonesian garment workers.

Photo courtesy of United Students Against Sweatshops

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The University of Washington (UW) will no longer sell merchandise produced by the athletic apparel company Adidas. The university severed its $100,000 contract with the company in November because one of the company’s contractors in Indonesia has refused to pay $1.8 million in severance to 2,800 workers.

The PT Kizone factory shut down in 2011. Indonesian law says the company owes the workers money, but the government has been unable to enforce payment. The burden then falls on Adidas to pay the severance, activists with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) say.

If Adidas does not pay the severance, “it blatantly violates UW’s code of conduct,” said Rachel Shevrin of the UW branch of USAS.

For the past year Shevrin and other UW students have been pressuring UW President Michael Young to cut the contract.

The students held a mock funeral for PT factory on Halloween near Young’s office.

After UW’s Advisory Committee on Trademarks and Licensing reviewed the issue this fall, Young decided to end the contract with Adidas immediately. The university typically gives contracting companies 30 days to resolve the issue before ending the contract.

In a letter to the advisory committee, Young said Adidas provided no indication that it would change its position. Young was unconvinced by Adidas’ offer of humanitarian aid to the workers.

“The bottom line is that its handling of the situation does not meet our expectations for the humane and ethical treatment of workers who produce UW licensed products,” Young wrote.

UW is the third school to end its relationship with Adidas. Cornell University and Oberlin College each ended their contracts earlier this year. Other universities, including the University of Michigan (U-M), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brown, Rutgers and Georgetown are also considering ending contracts with Adidas.

U-M, Adidas’ largest collegiate contract, has sued over the issue. The $60 million contract with Michigan provides athletic apparel to the school’s teams.

The UW contract is relatively small. Adidas produced Husky gear sold to the public in stores.

Adidas has 60 days to sell any remaining Husky apparel.

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