Penn State has suspended its contract with adidas over alleged violation of Indonesian labor laws.
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) March 18, 2013
adidas is the sports merchandising giant in closest competition to Nike at the moment. However, Nike, being headquartered in Oregon, has already come under extensive fire for carrying on illegitimate labor practices in Indonesia and other far-reaching locales worldwide.
Located in Germany, adidas’ unethical employment of laborers seems to have only come under fire more recently. Penn State now becomes the latest in a string of schools over the previous few years to publicly either put the school on notice or to simply cut ties altogether.
Rodney A. Erickson, the President of Penn State, wrote a letter to Bob Leuenberger, head of adidas Team Sport – America. In it he detailed several issues he and the school has with the severance that was supposed to have been paid to Indonesian sweat shop workers. Bascially, the money never got there, and adidas doesn’t care.
“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,” President Erickson wrote in his letter to Adidas.
“Even so, we are determined to do our share to redress shortcomings where we find them and encourage our licensees to behave responsibly and justly vis-a-vis the workers who produce their products in our name.”
According to MSN Money, the school has provided adidas with 60 days to provide appropriate compensation to more than 2,600 Indonesian workers who are owed more than $1.8 million in severance. That dollar figure comes to us via United Students Against Sweatshops.
“If the period expires without resolution,” says a Penn State press release, “the University will terminate Adidas’ license to produce Penn State merchandise.”
Such an action would make Penn State one of the first to do so, but not quite. Both Cornell University and Oberlin College elected not to renew their four-year apparel contracts with the company. It was the very first time a school — not to mention two — elected not to renew their agreements with adidas.
Cornell and Oberlin may have been the tip of the sword. Penn State may wind up cutting ties with the brand, but the University of Washington, Rutgers University, Georgetown University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the College of William and Mary have already put the wheels in motion to make it happen. Some of these five schools have worked to cuts ties with adidas all together, while others have brought suit against the brand to try to force them to pay up.
Penn State understands that there is only so much each individual school can do. However, Erickson wants to do what he and his school’s buying power can in order to influence companies such as these.
“True change in the context of the manufacture of collegiate apparel requires the immediate attention of Adidas and other global corporations that benefit from this market,” said Penn State President Erickson, who noted that his school’s decision “signals that our commitment is genuine and that we seek to apply our limited influence in the only effective way we can.”
One might think that all the rest of us can hope for is a change from the top, but that is simply not the case.
In this humble blogger’s opinion, there is no reason to buy from a multi-gazillion dollar enterprise such as adidas at the same time it tries to slime its way out of paying just a small amount of severance pay to men and women earning literally 60-cents an hour.