On Friday, April 7, a handful of students, mostly members of Students for a Democratic Society, marched to Wallis Hall where they hand-delivered a letter to the office of University President Joel Seligman. Condemning the employment of sweatshops and other manufacturers with substandard labor practices, the letter targeted UR’s merchandise deal with Adidas, which was recently flagged by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC).
In April 2011, Adidas shut down its PT Kizone production facility in Indonesia. Since then, issues have arisen between the company and the workers who found themselves unemployed.
During their time working, employees made up to $0.60 per hour producing university apparel for both Adidas and Nike, as well as the Dallas Cowboys, according to United Students Against Sweathshops. Most recently, 2,800 workers were refused what amounted to $1.8 million of severance pay.
Both Nike and the Cowboys have made good on their severance packages, leaving Adidas alone in its refusal.
The letter states that the University’s mission statement “alludes to this importance of not only affecting change in our local community, but also in the global context. This is not a political issue for the University to take a stance on, but a human rights issue.”
The students further suggest that long-term affiliation with the WRC will promote socially conscious decisions in the future. Many universities, including Oberlin College, Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Washington, have cut ties with Adidas. In total, 180 universities have affiliated with the WRC in opposition to the company.
“We’re dropping off this letter, not to be mob-like or anything, just to deliver the message and let the campus know that this is something that’s happening,” senior Matthew Chin said. “This is part of a national movement to get schools to affiliate, even though the organization has been around for some time now.”
The students were unable to hand the letter to Seligman in person and instead met with his receptionist, who agreed to forward the letter and arrange a meeting with Seligman.
Smith is a member of the class of 2014.