Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin met with a group of student activists to discuss the university's apparel contract with Adidas, on Friday. "/>

Ypsilanti Courier > News

YPSILANTI: EMU students pressure university to end 'unethical' contract with Adidas

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin poses with members of Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education after meeting with them on Nov. 7. Photo by Kody Klein.

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin met with a group of student activists to discuss the university's apparel contract with Adidas, on Friday. 

The group, Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education, allege that Adidas refused to deliver $1.8 million of due severance pay to 2,800 workers after the Indonesian PT Kizone factory closed in 2011. Its members are encouraging EMU administration to consider pressuring Adidas to pay the severance, or even to cancel its contract with Adidas. 

"We're engaging in consuming products that are produced in unethical conditions," said David Chapman, SEPE member. "So we're implicated in the exploitation of the workers, regardless of how far away they are. By the university participating in that contract, it's setting up that relationship. As students, we have a democratic responsibility to ensure that the university is practicing fair and ethical treatment, regardless of the contracts they hold and the money they generate from this."

This issue has already resulted in several universities cancelling their contracts with Adidas, including Rutgers and Cornell

Currently EMU contracts with Adidas for sports teams' uniforms and some university apparel.

The meeting between SEPE and EMU featured a presentation by SEPE to Martin, Vice President of Communications Walter Kraft and Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom.

"It was a good meeting," Ashley Attar, SEPE member, said. "A lot of information was thrown at them. They have a lot to work with. They've said that they need time to review, and we should be meeting up with them again before the semester ends.

"Our goal, which was to either have these workers be allotted their severance and if not, cut the contract. I don't think that goal is going to happen this semester. But that's OK. What's most important is that we started this dialogue."

According to Larcom, EMU administration will gather as much information as possible to determine an appropriate response to the controversy.

"Today's meeting with EMU student representatives of SEPE offered a chance to, above all, listen carefully to their concerns regarding worker issues," Larcom said. "We look forward to working with these EMU students to fully understand the issues and the events involved and in developing an appropriate response." Continued...

SEPE's relationship with EMU administration began last spring when they worked successfully with former Vice President of Student Affairs, Bernice Lindke, to officially affiliate EMU with the Worker's Rights Consortium, which describes itself as "an independent labor rights monitoring organization."

Chapman said that if EMU continues business with Adidas, it would have "contradictory contracts with Adidas and WRC."

In a press release available on its website, Adidas said it is currently providing aid to the workers who were displaced by the closing of the PT Kizone factory.

"This month, we launched a food aid programme timed with Idul Fitri, the most important religious holiday in Indonesia," the company said in a recent press release. "Food vouchers were distributed to nearly 2,500 workers and their families during the first week of the programme, which will continue to make available up to $250,000 USD in aid."

However, Adidas said it will not assume responsibility for paying severance.

"Because it has fully honoured its contractual obligations at the plant, the Adidas Group will not accept nor assume the financial duties of the former PT Kizone owner and pay severance to the workers, as some labour groups and business partners have asked us to do," the release said.

Kody Klein is a freelance writer for the Ypsilanti Courier. he can be reached at kody.jon.klein@gmail.com or on Twitter @KodyJonKlein.
Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin met with a group of student activists to discuss the university's apparel contract with Adidas, on Friday. 

The group, Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education, allege that Adidas refused to deliver $1.8 million of due severance pay to 2,800 workers after the Indonesian PT Kizone factory closed in 2011. Its members are encouraging EMU administration to consider pressuring Adidas to pay the severance, or even to cancel its contract with Adidas. 

"We're engaging in consuming products that are produced in unethical conditions," said David Chapman, SEPE member. "So we're implicated in the exploitation of the workers, regardless of how far away they are. By the university participating in that contract, it's setting up that relationship. As students, we have a democratic responsibility to ensure that the university is practicing fair and ethical treatment, regardless of the contracts they hold and the money they generate from this."

This issue has already resulted in several universities cancelling their contracts with Adidas, including Rutgers and Cornell

Currently EMU contracts with Adidas for sports teams' uniforms and some university apparel.

The meeting between SEPE and EMU featured a presentation by SEPE to Martin, Vice President of Communications Walter Kraft and Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom.

"It was a good meeting," Ashley Attar, SEPE member, said. "A lot of information was thrown at them. They have a lot to work with. They've said that they need time to review, and we should be meeting up with them again before the semester ends.

"Our goal, which was to either have these workers be allotted their severance and if not, cut the contract. I don't think that goal is going to happen this semester. But that's OK. What's most important is that we started this dialogue."

According to Larcom, EMU administration will gather as much information as possible to determine an appropriate response to the controversy.

"Today's meeting with EMU student representatives of SEPE offered a chance to, above all, listen carefully to their concerns regarding worker issues," Larcom said. "We look forward to working with these EMU students to fully understand the issues and the events involved and in developing an appropriate response."

SEPE's relationship with EMU administration began last spring when they worked successfully with former Vice President of Student Affairs, Bernice Lindke, to officially affiliate EMU with the Worker's Rights Consortium, which describes itself as "an independent labor rights monitoring organization."

Chapman said that if EMU continues business with Adidas, it would have "contradictory contracts with Adidas and WRC."

In a press release available on its website, Adidas said it is currently providing aid to the workers who were displaced by the closing of the PT Kizone factory.

"This month, we launched a food aid programme timed with Idul Fitri, the most important religious holiday in Indonesia," the company said in a recent press release. "Food vouchers were distributed to nearly 2,500 workers and their families during the first week of the programme, which will continue to make available up to $250,000 USD in aid."

However, Adidas said it will not assume responsibility for paying severance.

"Because it has fully honoured its contractual obligations at the plant, the Adidas Group will not accept nor assume the financial duties of the former PT Kizone owner and pay severance to the workers, as some labour groups and business partners have asked us to do," the release said.

Kody Klein is a freelance writer for the Ypsilanti Courier. he can be reached at kody.jon.klein@gmail.com or on Twitter @KodyJonKlein.

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