GV students protest Adidas contract

GVL / Robert Mathews
Members of the USAS organization march to the Provost office to protest GVSUs contract with Adidas.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Members of the USAS organization march to the Provost office to protest GVSU’s contract with Adidas.

Lizzy Balboa

About 15 sign-wielding students marched around campus Tuesday to protest Grand Valley State University’s recently formed contract with Adidas, which has allegedly shut down a factory in Indonesia without issuing $1.8 million in severance pay to its workers.

The demonstrators requested GVSU join Georgetown University, Rutgers University, Cornell University and other schools around the nation in severing its ties with the German athletic company.

Lindsey Disler, who organized the march at GVSU through the student organization United Students Against Sweatshops, said she got in contact with the national organization three weeks ago after some Indonesian workers visited the Allendale Campus. GVSU’s USAS collaborated with Amnesty International, Act on Racism and the Nouveaux Socialist group to stage the demonstration.

Disler was one of three students who met Tuesday with GVSU Vice President of Finance and Administration Jim Bachmeier to voice their concerns.

“We’ll appoint a task force and have students represented on that task force, and we’ll look at the claims or the accusations of Adidas, Adidas’ responses and then what the task force thinks the appropriate action might be, and that task force can make a recommendation to me which I’ll carry to the university president,” Bachmeier said. “I expect we’ll have the task force set this month.”

Bachmeier said if the decision is made to cut the $150,000 contract, he thinks the university would be able to do so and it wouldn’t be of great financial cost other than a loss of incentives. Cutting Adidas would also not directly impact the university’s other vendors, like Nike or UnderArmour, he said.

Bachmeier said it does not appear likely GVSU would develop a contract with a new company if it cut Adidas, and he added that the university’s contract is a rare one to begin with. Typically, contracts are reserved for Division I schools, but GVSU is only Division II.

The rarity of its contract will not hold GVSU back from taking action, though.

Bachmeier said he thinks President Thomas Haas supported the decision to establish a task force.

“He placed particular emphasis on transparency,” he said.

This isn’t the first time universities have fought for the rights of overseas workers.

Disler said more than 80 schools cut their contracts with Russell Athletic in 2009 following a similar incident.

Regardless, the university will not act in uninformed haste.

“Our students have put together a case and I intend to take it seriously, and I will probably move slower than they expect but I will not be guilty of stonewalling,” he said. “These things take time and move slowly but I will not be deliberately slow.”

While the university waits to establish the task force, it will not take further action.

“I think the university would be deliberate about not jumping to action without review,” he said. “Once we have the full understanding, we’ll go from there.”

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