To the editor:
Through a month-and-a-half-long campaign, United Students Against Sweatshops at Kansas University secured orders of union-made, living-wage apparel set to enter KU Bookstore in mid-April. This victory was achieved through students caring about conditions under which university apparel is made. It is a positive first step in addressing the enormous issue of sweatshop labor in the garment industry.
Nonetheless, the university still does business with companies engaged in sweatshop labor. A key example is the company Adidas, which markets KU athletic apparel. Adidas failed to ensure that 2,800 Indonesian garment workers were paid legally mandated severance totaling $1.8 million.
Our labor code of conduct, from the Collegiate Licensing Company, is clear: “Licensees shall pay employees, as a floor, at least the minimum wage required by local law or the local prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher, and shall provide legally mandated benefits.”
We should have reason to be proud of companies that make products for the university. This is not a reason to unconditionally sever ties with Adidas, but it is on KU to ensure companies it does business with act responsibly. Adidas’ contract with KU expires this summer; if Adidas wishes to do business with KU in the future, it should be obligated to pay their workers.