The Penn State chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops presented a petition to President Rodney Erickson’s office Wednesday for Penn State to terminate its contract with adidas.
As a national organization, USAS claims adidas owes $1.8 million in severance to workers from an Indonesian sportswear manufacturer titled PT Kizone.
This factory was closed due to bankruptcy in 2011 after the factory’s owner fled. While PT Kizone was in business, USAS claims workers were paid 60 cents an hour in wages.
Worker Rights Consortium said in a January 2012 assessment for the University of Wisconsin that Green Textile, Nike and the Dallas Cowboys paid PT Kizone subcontracted workers $1,576,000 in severance.
But adidas maintains it does not owe compensation to the more than 2,000 workers of the closed factory.
In a February 2012 press release, adidas said, "The central fact remains that the PT Kizone factory was illegally closed and abandoned by its owner, not by the adidas Group, and this occurred more than six months after we placed our last order with them. We honored all terms of our contract, paying the factory owners every penny owed. In turn, we cannot assume, or accept, the liability for the severance owed by the former owner of PT Kizone who violated Indonesian law and fled."
In July 2012, the adidas Group began a $250,000 food voucher program for the workers. The Group also has a job placement program in place.
However, these actions do not satisfy USAS or its partner organizations.
Penn State’s chapter of USAS and other university chapters across the nation and overseas are attempting to contact their administrations with petitions. These petitions are for universities to end contracts with adidas unless the company pays back a $1.8 million severance owed to factory workers in Indonesia, Lili Hadsell, Penn State USAS leader, said.
On Tuesday, the national USAS Facebook posted "Yesterday, our friends at War on Want [a non-governmental organization] in the UK delivered a petition signed by nearly 50,000 people, accompanied by an invoice for the $1.8 million in severance owed to PT Kizone workers. Later today, USASers in Portland will do the same at Adidas's US headquarters."
"The ultimate goal is to put pressure on adidas," Hadsell (junior-women’s studies and English) said.
Hadsell and other members of USAS have advocated for this cause in classrooms and collected four pages of signatures over the past two weeks of classes.
"I think this is really important to our Penn State pride and to our community," Hadsell said.
Other Penn State students do not believe the initiative will have an impact on Penn State’s existing contract with the company.
Student Allison Cherry believes the amount of signatures gathered by USAS is not enough to show student concern.
"That’s a lot, but this is still a very big university," Cherry (senior-nutrition) said. "If they had twenty pages maybe. There is a lot of students that go here."
Students Maggie Cardin and Alex Blanarik said they also believe the initiative may not be effective, as it is not the university’s main concern at the moment.
"I think that Penn State always takes everything into consideration," Cardin (junior-English and education) said. "I think they’ll look into it, but if it’s not that pressing of an issue, they might not make it a top priority."
Blanarik (senior-mechanical engineering and integrative arts) agreed with this sentiment.
"I feel that we’re going through enough issues as it is. I don’t think we have the capacity right now to take on any other issue without getting over our heads," Blanarik said.