Early Friday afternoon, members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee delivered a letter and petition to University President John J. DeGioia’s office asking the administration to cut its sportswear contract with Adidas if the company does not reform its labor practices.
The issue at hand is severance pay for Indonesian workers. Solidarity members say Adidas is withholding back wages owed to employees.
“Adidas had a factory called PT Kizone in Indonesia and two other companies, Nike and Dallas Cowboys, also operated in this factory,” Natalia Margolis (SFS ‘13) said. “They closed the factory and now Adidas is refusing to pay the workers … a severance.”
Julia Hubbell (COL ‘15) says this practice not only puts Adidas at odds with Indonesian law, but violates the University’s licensing agreement.
“There is a specific clause in that contract that says companies need to pay all applicable back wages, meaning specifically severance,” she said. “That gives Georgetown University every right to either demand Adidas change its behavior or cut the contract.”
Friday was not the first time GSC has asked the University to pressure Adidas. The group delivered a letter to the administration last spring, but the results were unsatisfactory to the activists.
“We had a letter delivery last year,” said Margolis. “Georgetown has sent letters to Adidas, but the response hasn’t been enough … They don’t want to set precedent that they’re going to do this.”
“One of the things they’ve done to get out of it is they’ve given workers food vouchers that are worth partial severance, but not the full amount,” she said. “That’s not enough. The workers will say ‘We can’t pay our rent with this. We can’t send our children to school with this. They’re basically treating us like animals and all we need is food.’”
Nike, and not Adidas, is Georgetown’s main sportswear supplier. GSC says in this area the American company is respecting the University’s labor standards.
“The other two companies who were operating out of this factory—Nike and Dallas [Cowboys]—they did pay the severance,” Hubbell said. “While it’s a small contract [with Adidas], it’s definitely a moral stand.”
Cornell University recently cut its contract with Adidas over labor and severance concerns at the same Indonesian factory. Solidarity hopes that will encourage Georgetown to stand up for workers as well.