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UW ends Adidas contract after human-rights violations

Nearly a year after Adidas violated the UW’s Code of Conduct, the university cut ties with the company earlier this month.

The UW’s contract with Adidas came under question after the apparel company refused to pay $1.8 million in severance to workers in an Indonesian factory. This breached the UW’s Code of Conduct, which holds companies accountable for labor violations in contracted factories.

The contract termination came two weeks after the Advisory Committee on Trademarks and Licensing (ACTL) — which is appointed by the UW president to guarantee that companies producing the UW products offer humane working conditions — recommended UW sever relations with Adidas.

“We’re pleased with the decision, but it would have been nice if it had happened sooner,” said Katy Lundgren, ASUW representative on ACTL and member of UW United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

ACTL began inspecting Adidas after an investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium found that 2,800 workers were left unemployed after the factory owner fled Indonesia in January 2011.

Adidas responded to the report on its website saying it would not assume responsibility for the financial duty of the factory owner to his workers.

USAS and ACTL met with Adidas representatives in February 2011 to discuss the allegations. At the meeting, Gregg Nebel, head of social and environmental affairs for Adidas, said the company followed the UW’s Code of Conduct by following up on the report and monitoring the factory.

Since then, USAS members have been actively pressuring UW President Michael Young to end the contract.

“I think it was in large part due to student pressure,” Lundgren said. “We were in there at least twice a month, sometimes more, updating him and reminding him of the urgency of it.”

Two days before the decision was made, students confronted Young in front of the UW Board of Regents.

In a letter announcing his decision to cut the contract, Young said that because Adidas has given no indication of reconsidering its position, he instructed the University Trademarks and Licensing Office to end the contract.

“I fully agree with the committee’s conclusion that, by taking the position that it had no responsibility for severance payments to its supplier’s former workers, Adidas falls short of the University’s expectations for its licensees,” Young wrote.

The UW has the ability to cut contracts if companies violate human rights. However, Kathy Hoggan, director of the University Trademarks and Licensing Office, said the school has not issued an at-will execution in a very long time.

Cornell University and Oberlin College also ended their contracts with Adidas in response to the violations.

Reach News Editor Jillian Stampher at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JillianStampher

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