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Updated Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 07:16 PM

UW severs Adidas contract after student-led actions

By Katherine Long
Seattle Times higher education reporter

The University of Washington has severed a sports-apparel contract with Adidas after a nearly yearlong campaign by students, who say the company has violated the labor rights of overseas workers.

The contract with Adidas returned about $3,000 in royalties to the UW last year, said Kathy Hoggan, director of trademarks and licensing for the university. The licensing agreement allows the German multinational company to make sports apparel with the UW logo, which is sold in stores around campus.

The UW chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops began campaigning against the contract in February, said student Katy Lundgren, who is a member of both the student group and the school's advisory committee for trademarks and licensing.

United Students Against Sweatshops says Adidas owes $1.8 million in severance to about 2,800 workers at its PT Kizone factory in Indonesia, which closed in January 2011. Failure to pay severance is a violation of the university's code of conduct for apparel companies, Lundgren said, and the advisory committee recommended that the contract be severed.

The UW group said it confronted an Adidas executive at a meeting of apparel executives on UW's campus in October. During Halloween, group members held a mock funeral for the factory and raised the issues with UW President Michael Young while dressed as zombies, and later brought the issue before a meeting of the school's Board of Regents.

"A large part of this decision was definitely student action," Lundgren said.

In a statement, Young said that "whatever technical or legal arguments Adidas may rely on to support its position in this case, the bottom line is that its handling of the situation does not meet our expectations for the humane and ethical treatment of workers who produce UW licensed products."

Cornell University also has severed its contract with Adidas, and Oberlin College decided not to renew its contract. The University of Michigan's $60 million contract with the company is also under review.

Hoggan said the UW's contract with Adidas is one of its smallest licensing contracts. Its largest contract is with Nike.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @katherinelong.


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