SU officials threaten to cut ties with Adidas

Syracuse University has taken action regarding athletic-wear company Adidas’ refusal to pay severance to more than 2,500 factory workers.

Officials within SU Auxiliary Services sent a letter to Adidas on March 1 issuing a warning about the international corporation’s inaction at a factory in Indonesia.

When the owner of the PT Kizone factory fled Indonesia in January 2011, more than 2,800 workers were left without $3.3 million in severance pay, according to the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights monitoring organization that SU joined in 2001. While other companies that use the factory, like Nike, have paid $500,000 in reparations to the workers, Adidas has continued to stay silent on the situation.

“It is the conclusion of Syracuse University that adidas, by failing to remedy these violations, is in possible breach of its licensing agreement with the University,” said SU Associate Director of Auxiliary Services Jamie Cyr and Associate Director of Athletics and Director of Marketing Marc Donabella, in the letter.

The letter stated that while the university values its licensing relationship with the Adidas brand, the school’s mission to enforce labor standards takes precedence. Cyr and Donabella ended the letter by saying university officials will contemplate terminating the licensing agreement between SU and Adidas if action is not taken in 90 days.

“The university will take into consideration every action we can. We can remove all Adidas goods from the bookstore. When Adidas submits a design, we can withhold approval, which means they can’t produce it,” Cyr said in an interview with The Daily Orange. “We’re lending a voice to show our disapproval of the situation’s handling by Adidas. It’s one of those things where there’s strength in numbers. If we form a strong bond, that’s the best response.”

Adidas acknowledged it received the university’s letter, but has not made a formal reply, Cyr said. SU and Adidas are still discussing the issue, said Kevin Quinn, senior vice president of public affairs, in an email.

If SU cuts ties with Adidas, it would join eight universities that have already taken this action. These universities include Cornell University, Georgetown University, Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University, according to the “Badidas” campaign website.

Adidas defends its decision not to pay the $1.8 million still due in severance to the 2,800 workers, as the company “had no business relationship with PT Kizone at the time of its closure,” said Adidas spokeswoman Lauren Lamkin, in an email.

Lamkin added that Adidas has already provided $525,000 in humanitarian aid to the factory’s former workers through food vouchers and job placement.

SU has rejected this aid as adequate compensation, according to the letter the university sent to the company.

“We are aware that adidas has taken some steps in recent months that have been of some benefit to workers,” Cyr and Donabella said in the letter. “However, these steps do not constitute a remedy of the violations: the non-payment of legally mandated terminal compensation to more than 2,500 workers.”

Cyr said those part of the auxiliary service administration hope a resolution is met before the 90-day deadline is reached and that Adidas will reach a compromise with PT Kizone.


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