Letter to the Editor

Students have opportunity to launch anti-Adidas campaign at SU

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, garment workers from Haiti and Honduras visited Syracuse University in a coordinated effort to educate students about working conditions inside the factories that produce collegiate apparel. Their message urged college students to push their universities to stop buying from Adidas until the company and its subcontractor Gildan improve their record on wages and workers’ rights. Adidas sources apparel from over 1,200 factories worldwide, encouraging a global “race to the bottom” by doling out its contracts to the lowest bidder. The United Students Against Sweatshops has launched a new “Badidas” campaign in the wake of the 2011 closure of the PT Kizone textile factory in Indonesia, which put 2,800 people out of work (see www.badidas.com). Adidas was producing university logo apparel at the factory, and has refused to pay the $1.8 million in severance pay the workers are owed. As a university licensee, this positions Adidas in violation of SU’s code of conduct. Workers are thus mobilizing students to apply pressure on this global brand, to ensure that licensees with whom universities do business comply with the law and with the terms of the codes of conduct.

Telemarque Pierre, one of the speakers at the event co-sponsored by the PARCC Labor Studies group and Hendricks Chapel, is a worker and union leader in a Gildan factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In one hand, he clutched a large, navy blue T-shirt emblazoned with the white and orange text, “We are SU.” In the flattened palm of his other hand, he held out four copper pennies. Telemarque told the audience the four pennies were what he earned for his role in assembling that very T-shirt, priced at $12.99 in the SU bookstore with a Gildan tag that read, “Made in Haiti.”

“Would you pay five more cents for this shirt?” Telemarque asked the audience, indicating what it would take to bring his earnings in line with the minimum wage.

The lecture on campus tonight by Jeff Connors, the director of global marketing with the Adidas Group — sponsored by Career Services and the Office of Alumni Relations — presents a timely opportunity to ask questions about Adidas’ responsibility for labor practices throughout their supply chain. It also presents an opportunity for students to launch the “Badidas” campaign here at SU, reviving what was once a vibrant anti-sweatshop movement here on campus. In the wake of coordinated student pressure, six campuses have already dropped the Adidas brand, including Cornell University, Georgetown Univeristy, Rutgers University, Oberlin College, University of Washington and the College of William and Mary.

Gretchen Purser, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Matt Huber, Assistant Professor of Geography

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