Magazine article University Business

Speaking Up for a Cause

Magazine article University Business

Speaking Up for a Cause

Article excerpt

When the PT Kizone factory in Indonesia went out of business in January 2011, 2,800 people lost their jobs. Most of the factory's international clients fulfilled obligations to pay into a $3.4 million severance pool for the workers. One company that did not is sports apparel maker Adidas. As of mid-December, Adidas had refused to pay $1.8 million dollars owed to the workers.

Now, following student protests and petition campaigns, a number of U.S. schools have ended their contracts with the company, citing unfair labor practices.

Cornell University (N.Y.), Rutgers University (N.J.) and the University of Washington have dropped the Adidas brand. "By taking the position that it had no responsibility for severance payments to its supplier's former workers, Adidas falls short of the university's expectations for its licensees," said University of Washington President Michael Young in a statement.

Meanwhile, Oberlin College (Ohio) has decided not to renew its contract with Adidas, while Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan are reviewing their contracts.

The contracts tend to be relatively small a U Washington spokesman said theirs was worth about $100,000, while Rutgers earned $11,000 in fees from Adidas last year--but the University of Michigan deal is worth some $60 million. However, these schools are among the 180 U.S. institutions affiliated with the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor-rights monitoring group.

Their contracts mandate that brands pay "all applicable back wages found due to workers who manufactured the licensed articles. …

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