USAS Protests Adidas Worker Abuse

UPDATE (3/13): According to an email sent to members of USAS from the office of President Rodney Erickson, effective immediately, Penn State will suspend its licensing contract with Adidas in light of worker’s rights abuse at the popular sports brand’s Indonesian plants.

According to the letter, if Adidas pays its neglected workers their rightful share of severance within 60 days, Penn State will lift its suspension and continue its “prior relationship.”

The letter reads: “It is obvious to us that there are profound limits to our University’s influence over the substantial and complex issues created by the current supply chain model for the global manufacture of apparel. Even so, we are determined to do our share to redress shortcoming where we find them and encourage out licensees to behave responsibly and justly vis-a-vis the workers who produce their products in our name”

“The size, scope and influence of Adidas can be a force for good, as well as profit, and we want to partner with Adidas and other licensees toward the shared goal of social justice”

Read the entire statement from Penn State here.

Penn State United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is spearheading a big campus fight against Adidas that you might not have heard about. The group, which regularly advocates for workers’ rights, especially for Penn State licensed clothing, has campaigned against the university for over a year to end its contract with Adidas.

Why? It turns out that when Adidas closed their PT Kizone factory in Indonesia in January of 2011, the company did not pay their workers the $1.8 million severance pay that they owed the 2,700 now unemployed workers. According to Indonesian national law and the Penn State’s code of conduct, companies are required to provide laid-off workers with a severance payment. The  Penn State Labor Code Standards Schedule I, Section II B 1, says that companies should pay workers minimum wage and provide “legally mandated benefits.” In spite of this flagrant human rights desecration, Penn State has continued to uphold its existing, albeit relatively small, contract with Adidas.

President Erickson has until a self-imposed Wednesday, March 13 deadline to answer USAS and issue a decision on the Adidas case. USAS has been vigorously promoting their cause in the days leading up to this final decision by handing out fliers and getting petition signatures in front of the HUB.

USAS is also holding a vigil tomorrow night at the Schreyer House. Organization members will meet at 7:45 p.m. at the corner of Bigler Road and Park Avenue to walk to the president’s house, where they will have student and faculty speakers discuss the importance of upholding human rights. The goal is to show President Erickson that the Penn State Code of Conduct is more than just a paper, but the standard by which all Penn State students, faculty, and affiliates should conduct themselves and their business. President Erickson doesn’t actually live in the Schreyer House, but you get the point.

Penn State Student and USAS member Shelby Matsovich says, “This is the chance for Penn State to be a leader in respecting human rights. The PT Kizone workers cannot wait much longer, nor will we allow this from the university we will one day be alumni of.”

The facts are in. In the face of human rights violations, Penn State has continued business with Adidas. Seven other schools, including Cornell and the University of Wisconsin, have already severed their contracts with the company. On Wednesday, it is up to President Erickson to make Penn State number eight.

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