adidas under fire

Not all Queen’s sports uniforms made in Canada, document alleges

No Sweat project directors Jonathan Adamo and Stephanie Simoes
No Sweat project directors Jonathan Adamo and Stephanie Simoes

Queen’s No Sweat has obtained documents stating that not all pieces of Queen’s Atheltics clothing are made in Canada. Upon signing the contract in 2008, Queen’s told students all clothing would be made in the country.

No Sweat project directors Stephanie Simoes and Jonathan Adamo were refused access to an uncensored copy of Queen’s contract with adidas after filing a request through Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but were granted the list of factories that produce Queen’s clothing.

According to the documents, of the 342 items, 162 are produced in Canada, all by Saxon Manufacturing in Brantford. The remaining 180 items are made internationally, in factories in Asia and South America.

“Dean [of Student Affairs Jason] Laker specifically told us in the meeting we had with him all the clothing will be made in Canada,” Simoes, ArtSci ‘09, said, adding that just because factories are in Canada doesn’t mean they aren’t sweatshops.

“The product list we were sent clearly states that much of the apparel is produced outside of Canada, including jerseys, shorts and jackets. No matter whether these are considered ‘uniforms’ or simply ‘athletic apparel,’ it still matters where they were made. The administration told us that all uniforms are produced in Canada, but they neglected to tell us that much of the clothing we are receiving from adidas is produced elsewhere.”

A division of Queen’s Oxfam, No Sweat’s mandate for this year is to persuade the administration to join the Designated Suppliers Program, which would require it to ensure its clothing is produced ethically.

Simoes said she’s frustrated the administration has so far resisted joining the DSP, adding that she thinks adidas’ code of conduct is too vague to ensure the company adheres to ethical labour practices.

“There are no consequences,” she said. “That’s completely meaningless until they actually prove that they’re following through.”

In September, Adamo, ArtSci ’09, told the Journal 10,500 adidas employees lost their jobs when a factory in Indonesia was shut down. The workers were still owed back pay as of 2008.

Adamo said the administration has been co-operative with No Sweat.

He wants the administration to refuse to renew its contract with adidas, which is set to expire in 2011.

“That would be the only action I guess we could take right away.”

Laker said all the interuniversity team uniforms are made in Canada, but he never claimed all the clothing was made domestically. He said the decision was made to sign with adidas because in the past, the company has responded quickly to allegations of unethical labour practices in its factories.

“Any multinational company that does business around the world … it’s possible that there will be allegations from time to time.”

Laker said the University is looking into joining the DSP.

“We have been active members of the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) for years, and we participate in the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) Working Group. However, it is important that you know that the DSP is only a proposal at this point—it hasn’t yet been implemented. It is a U.S.-based idea that has thus far been blocked by the U.S. Government under their anti-trust laws,” Laker told the Journal in an e-mail.

“Moreover, only a small number of over 6,000 post-secondary institutions in the U.S. are involved at this time, and none in Canada. … We are very interested and will remain engaged in the process,” he said, adding that Queen’s is part of the working group looking into making the DSP feasible in Canada.

Laker said he isn’t aware of any involvement by adidas in unethical labour practices while making Queen’s apparel.

“The global supply chain for apparel is very diffuse, and there are a number of steps in the process of getting an individual piece of clothing produced and distributed to the ultimate consumer. There is not currently a global tracking mechanism to determine, for instance, which factory produced which piece of individual clothing in the Canadian warehouse.”

Laker said the University is always looking for ethical companies with which to do business whenever circumstances allow.

“For instance, the Bookstore was recently looking into sourcing from a U.S. company that seemed to have demonstrated high labour standards. Unfortunately, that company has not expressed willingness or interest to export to Canada—the market here is not big enough for them to make the effort. This is frustrating, but the point is we will continue to look for such opportunities and pursue them, in collaboration and consultation with the Workers’ Rights Consortium.”

Laker said Canada has a lower collective buying power, and this makes it harder to effect change.

“The difference here is that the Canadian market is so small.”

Not all clothing factories outside the country are necessarily sweatshops, Laker said.

“Just because it’s made outside of Canada does not mean that there’s anything wrong with it.”

Laker said the contract was censored to protect the privacy of the parties involved.

“The only part of the contract that was not provided to Queen’s No Sweat under privacy laws related to commercial interests. The law recognizes that publicizing pricing information could jeopardize a company’s ability to compete for other contracts in the future. In the same way, Queen’s is exempted from release of that information to preserve its ability to negotiate the most favourable sponsorships and benefits.”

To see the censored version of the contract between Queen’s Athletics and adidas, go to

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