Representatives from Adidas said the company was not legally responsible to pay former workers of the closed down PT Kizone factory in Indonesia, when Adidas representatives addressed an audience Tuesday in Eastern Michigan University’s Welch Hall.
Roughly 2,800 workers were left without $1.8 million in legally mandated severance pay and wages when the Indonesian factory, which was subcontracted by Adidas, closed abruptly in 2011 when the owner reportedly fled the country.
Gregg Nebel and Paul Loving were the representatives who discussed the workers’ rights issues on behalf of Adidas. They said the company was working on solutions to prevent scenarios like PT Kizone from happening again, and no EMU-logoed apparel was made at the particular factory discussed at the meeting.
Philip Patterson, an EMU graduate and founding member of the group Students for an Ethical Participatory Education, which has focused on this issue for months, attended the meeting.
“If Adidas doesn’t pay, then who will?” he said. “They said it should be the owner, but I don’t think that will ever happen.”
A letter was sent to Adidas from EMU’s administration in late January with questions regarding the factory and its workers. The meeting was coordinated as a result of the letter, according to SEPE members.
Walter Kraft, EMU’s vice president of communications, also attended the meeting.
“We had a good discussion and a lot of information and opinions were exchanged,” he said.
Dennison Dorsey, an EMU sophomore and SEPE member, said the meeting should evoke action.
“We have an official statement from Adidas, so we’re ready to move on,” he said. “The administration knows that we’re serious about this from the good turnout at the meeting. We’re ready for the next step.”
EMU senior and SEPE member Samir Webster said he was disappointed the administration wasn’t more engaged with the conversation during the meeting.
“They pretty much just provided the opening and closing remarks,” he said. “They didn’t ask a lot of questions.”
EMU senior and leading SEPE member Josiah Seng said there is another meeting with the administration that should take place within the upcoming week. He also said EMU could make a strong statement to Adidas and other universities if it severs its contract with the company.
“If EMU cuts its contract, it will be the largest university to do so thus far,” he said. “It will set an example for [the University of Michigan] and put pressure on other colleges.”
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