from The Daily Cardinal, October 29, 2007

Adidas director addresses UW about company's labor policy

Gregg Nebel, Adidas' director of social and environmental affairs, addressed UW-Madison's Labor Licensing Policy Committee Friday about the company's efforts to curb sweatshop abuses.

By:Ben Pierson /The Daily Cardinal

Gregg Nebel, Adidas' director of social
and environmental affairs,
discussed the company's involvement
in Hermosa Friday

A representative from Adidas visited UW-Madison to address the controversy surrounding the university's contract with the company Friday at a Labor Licensing Policy Committee meeting.

Gregg Nebel, Adidas' director of social and environmental affairs, discussed the company's efforts to hinder unfair labor practices.

"We want everybody to play by the rules," he said, revealing Adidas' plans to enforce more stringent supervision of apparel producers.

"Our program is primarily focused on monitoring of the supply chain," Nebel said. "In certain cases, non-compliance is caused because of ignorance or lack of understanding for proper regulation."

Adidas underwent intense scrutiny when allegations of wrongful employee treatment surfaced following the closing of one of its subcontractor factories. When Hermosa Manufacturing, located in El Salvador, closed its doors in 2005, 260 workers did not receive back pay upon their dismissal. A total of 63 workers were allegedly "blacklisted" for their involvement with a union, leaving them unable to find new employment.

The discovery of these practices prompted the Student Labor Action Coalition to urge Chancellor John Wiley to terminate the university's contract with Adidas, which is licensed by UW-Madison to produce athletic uniforms and equipment.

Adidas is just one of hundreds of apparel companies to hold licenses with the university, according to Dawn Crim, LLPC member and special assistant to the chancellor for community relations.

"We have 450 licensees who work with 3300 factories around the world where all of our apparel is sourced," Crim said at the meeting.

Some students feel that eliminating Adidas from this group of contract holders is the best way for the university to proceed.

"It's been two and a half years that these workers have not received their pay," said UW-Madison junior Jan Van Tol, student member of both SLAC and LLPC. "I do hold Adidas responsible for that and I also hold this university responsible for that and that's why I think it should be terminated."

According to Nebel, the company will continue to implement their plans in the face of the debate over Hermosa.

"Adidas is moving forward with this, regardless of a contract, regardless of criticism," Nebel said. "We are committed to making something happen."

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