Members of the United Students Against Sweatshops walked from the corner of Park Avenue and Bigler Road to the front of Old Main Tuesday night to have a candlelight vigil in honor of the Indonesian sweatshop workers who worked at PT Kizone factory.
The vigil, which was supposed to take place in front of the Penn State president’s house, was moved to Old Main when the organization members realized President Erickson did not live there.
USAS member Lili Hadsell said that after the PT Kizone factory closed, workers were left without severance pay and that Adidas is the only company that has not paid it. Adidas owes the workers $1.8 million severance pay, Hadsell said.
“The denial of severance pay is such a horrible [human rights] violation,” Professor Mark Anner said. “It’s up to us to make sure products sold at Penn State are made in cohesive conditions.”
Eleven students and faculty members attended the vigil. Jocelyn De La O, who was the first to speak at the vigil, recalled a memory of hearing a worker from the Indonesian sweatshop say, “I’m tired of surviving. I just want to live.”
“It’s time that Penn State starts taking the right steps and this is the right time,” De La O said.
The group is protesting Penn State’s licensing contract with Adidas and hope that Erickson will make the decision to cut the contract. Anner, who teaches in Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, said the vigil is a call on Penn State to terminate the contract.
For the members of USAS, the vigil and the other attempts to make sure Penn State supports sweatshop workers are a group effort.
“I think it is really important that you, as students, and we, as faculty, at Penn State put Penn State’s name on the line and say, hey we’re going to cut this contract,” said Daniel Hawkins, a Penn State faculty member in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations.
Wednesday is the deadline for Erickson to make a decision about the contract. As of 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, members of the USAS had not heard his decision.
Hadsell said that Erickson’s choice is “an easy decision.”
At the end of the vigil, the group held a moment of silence and taped a poster board cutout of a pair of scissors that read “Cut Adidas” on the doors of Old Main.
“I think it’s really important that we recognize that we stand in solidarity with the workers and the many people who can’t be here,” Hadsell said.