[Article from the Brown Daily Herald] “We can’t have justice at Brown’s leisure — we need it now,” said Student Labor Alliance member Stoni Tomson ’15 in a speech urging administrators to threaten to end the University’s contract with Adidas, which currently supplies apparel for varsity sports teams. Tomson addressed a crowd of about 15 SLA members and supporters Monday at noon.
In April 2011, the PT Kizone garment factory in Indonesia that supplied companies including Adidas with some of their college apparel shut down, leaving 2,800 workers without jobs, according to a website run by the SLA. Unlike the Dallas Cowboys and Nike, which also licensed apparel from the factory, Adidas refused to pay $1.8 million in severance to these workers, leaving them without nearly half a year’s salaries, Tomson said. This directly violates the University’s code of conduct, which states that all entities who have a written licensing agreement with the University must ensure its suppliers follow “domestic legal mandates,” according to the website.
Carrying signs with messages like “Brown take Adidas down” and “Honor your promise,” the protesters walked quietly from Wayland Arch to the office of Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, and then to University Hall to deliver their message to President Christina Paxson.
Neither Klawunn nor Paxson was present at the time, but the protesters spoke to MaryLou Macmillan, senior director for planning and projects, and Geneva Ferrell, special assistant to the president. Each said she would pass along the message to Klawunn and Paxson, respectively.
In Paxson’s office, SLA member Beilul Naizghi ’16 read aloud a prepared statement. “We ask that (Paxson) stands in support of the workers in the PT Kizone and around the world who are fighting against Adidas for justice,” she said.
Group members left a signed beach ball in Klawunn’s office to signify the ball is in the University’s court. They also left 18 balloons in Paxson’s office — each stood for $100,000 that Adidas owes the factory workers.
This is not an isolated incident for Adidas, Tomson told The Herald. The company has failed to pay severance to workers in the past, and health and safety law violations have been reported in several of their factories. Workers have been illegally fired and some have even suffered death threats, she said.
For about seven months, members of the SLA have been meeting with administrators, urging them to put Adidas “on notice” until it pays the factory workers the money it owes them. Though Tomson said she thinks administrators have emailed Adidas to encourage them to pay the workers their severance, she said they have not threatened to end the University’s contract.
Last week, administrators told SLA members that if Adidas did not take action within the week, they would put it on notice, SLA member Bryan Payton ’15 said.
“I think that they’re hoping that Adidas will give the severance pay without extra pressure to do so,” Payton said. “As we’ve seen, that’s not going to happen.”
“The stalling needs to stop,” Tomson told the crowd of SLA members and allies Monday. Brown needs to put Adidas on notice immediately, she said.
Over the past two months, Cornell, Oberlin College and the University of Washington have all ended their contracts with Adidas.
As of press time, 260 students, alums and parents have signed the petition on the website.