By Daniel Hinton
Two years since the closing of the PT Kizone factory, located in Tangerang, Indonesia, Adidas has settled with garment workers and agreed to pay them legally owed severance packages. The details of the settlement remain confidential. According to a news release, Adidas will provide a substantial sum to the former factory workers, who have agreed to drop their lawsuit filed in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Madison against the company in Wisconsin state courts.
“We remain sympathetic to the plight of all former PT Kizone workers,” said Glenn Bennett, who is responsible for the Global Operations of the Adidas Group Executive Board, in the corporation’s press statement. “This additional assistance will provide direct relief to workers and their families still impacted from the unethical factory closure. At the same time, we strongly encourage our university partners, industry leaders and workers’ advocates to join our efforts to pursue socially responsible and sustainable business practices to influence positive change within the global supply chain.”
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), which is affiliated with 180 colleges and universities including NYU, concluded that the factory closing violated its codes of conduct and the issue would be resolved only when all workers fully received their legally owed severance. Most of the pressure placed on Adidas then came from a nationwide campaign led by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
“We helped to bring the second largest apparel company in the world to the bargaining table,” USAS national organizer Garrett Strain said. “This is a testament to the power of student-worker solidarity.”
Over 2,700 Indonesian factory workers were laid off in April 2011, three months after the PT Kizone factory owner fled the country to avoid paying wages and worker compensation. The workers received payments from Nike and the Dallas Cowboys, which also ordered apparel from the factory, but Adidas refused for two years to pay the remaining sum of $1.8 million.
“The workers are extremely happy,” Strain said. “This is a huge victory for them and their union (DPC).”
USAS’s campaign, known as “Badidas,” included two worker tours around the country, an action at Selena Gomez‘s appearance at the Adidas store during Fashion Week in February, and one of the largest collegiate boycotts ever. A total of 17 colleges and universities, including Cornell, Rutgers and Oregon State, cut their contracts with Adidas prior to the settlement this week.
Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) led the campaign at NYU, which did not cut its contract with Adidas.
“It was not only the other schools that did cut their contracts but the many schools that were threatening to cut their contracts that ultimately brought Adidas to the bargaining table,” said Caitlin MacLaren, a USAS regional organizer, SLAM member and Gallatin junior.
“Right now factory safety is a huge concern in the apparel industry,” MacLaren added, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if [USAS] takes up that issue going forward.”