University News

Protesters ‘work out’ to support factory workers

The Student Labor Alliance demonstrated against the University’s contract with Adidas

By
Features Editor
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Approximately 20 students from the Student Labor Alliance protested the University’s current contract with Adidas Tuesday afternoon, staging a “workout for workers’ rights” on the Main Green and in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center before delivering a letter to President Christina Paxson’s office.

Six schools — Cornell, Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Washington, the College of William and Mary and Georgetown University — have already ended their contracts with Adidas, according to the website of United Students Against Sweatshops, a group with which SLA is affiliated. According to SLA’s letter to Paxson, Adidas refused to pay severance to workers at the PT Kizone garment factory in Indonesia when the factory closed in April 2011, allegedly withholding $1.8 million in wages from workers and thereby violating the University’s vendor code of conduct.

Adidas currently supplies apparel for Brown varsity sports teams, The Herald previously reported. But the University has notified Adidas that it does not intend to renew their contract given concerns over “the adequacy of (Adidas’) response in support of the workers at PT Kizone,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.

The decision not to renew the contract, which was influenced by students’ concerns, was made last semester, Quinn wrote.

Despite the decision, “we do not believe that evidence warrants breaking the legally binding contract prior to its expiration,” Quinn wrote.

Protesters said the University needed to do more than allow Adidas’ contract to expire.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” SLA member Stoni Tomson ’15 said.

The letter accuses the University of “(continuing) to accept Adidas’s shameless lies” and asks that the University “put Adidas on notice for its violation of our vendor code of conduct.”

Students displayed signs saying “honor your promise,” “Brown take Adidas down” and “I won’t stand for sweatshops.” After exercising on the Main Green, the protesters marched into the Blue Room with their signs, chanting slogans such as “When Adidas workers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up — fight back” and “Ban Adidas, ban, ban Adidas.”

The protesters encouraged students in the eatery to join the SLA in pressuring Brown to cut its contract with Adidas.

Protesters then entered University Hall to deliver their letter to Paxson, but were told by Heather Goode, the president’s office assistant, that she was in a meeting. Goode said she would deliver the letter to Paxson later that afternoon.

The protesters then left the building, chanting, “We’ll be back!” But as the group exited the building, students saw Paxson outside and presented their demands to her.

Paxson acknowledged the group’s concerns, noting there was “a lot of discussion” about cutting the contract.

“(Adidas knows) we’re not renewing their contract, and I think that’s about as far as I can go,” she told the group. “I know you’re not happy with it.” The students extended Paxson an invitation to attend a presentation April 16 from one of the PT Kizone workers who had been denied severance, which she asked the protesters to remind her of as the date drew nearer.

Students said they were pleased they were able to speak with Paxson in person and added that they hope Paxson will accept their requests.

“The reality is, she can do more,” Tomson said.