The ethics of uniform aesthetics

Queen’s No Sweat says adidas’ ethics may be no better than Russell’s

Queen’s Athletics’ decision to switch clothing providers from Russell Athletic to adidas might be an aesthetic improvement, but according to Queen’s No Sweat, it might not be an ethical one.

“Already, we’ve found out that a lot of the same issues are resurfacing with adidas,” said No Sweat Co-Director Jonathan Adamo. “Adidas has factories in Indonesia too. In one of their factories 10,500 workers lost their jobs when the factory was shut down. … As of 2008, they haven’t received their wages.”

Queen’s Athletics contract with its previous uniform supplier, Russell Athletic, came under repeated criticism for the allegedly unethical treatment of the employees at Hermosa Factory in El Salvador, where Russell outsourced the production of some of its garments.

Adamo said adidas also had some of its garments produced at Hermosa.

The Maquila Solidarity Network, an organization that works with workers seeking better labour conditions, is lobbying on behalf of the former Hermosa employees who are seeking remuneration. MSN alleges both Russell and adidas had garments produced at Hermosa before it was closed in 2005.

Brad Greenwood, manager of Marketing, Communications and Events for Queen’s Athletics, told the Journal ethical business practices were taken into account when the decision was made to sign with adidas Canada.

“[It’s] part of the reason … it’s certainly a nice feature, but I think probably another big reason though however, signing with a company with the prestige of adidas certainly lent a lot of credibility to the program. …We want to be recognized and known in the same way adidas are.

“All of the uniforms are absolutely made in Canada.”

Laurie Robertson, athletic sales representative for adidas Canada told the Journal the Gaels uniforms supplied by adidas are made at a factory in Brantford, Ontario.

Robertson said certain non-uniform items provided by adidas—such as backpacks—aren’t made in Canada. Robertson said she didn’t know exactly where the items were made.

“Depending on what the garment is, it could be made in various factories.”

Robertson said adidas has a strict code of ethics by which all of its suppliers must comply.

“There is a certain protocol and standard that has to be met or they can’t do business with adidas,” she said. “This is really an adidas global policy that has to be met.”

The “Workplace Standards” document states that factories must provide a safe working environment and can’t use forced labour, employ children under the age of 15, pay less than the local minimum wage or compel employees to work more than 60 hours a week.

No Sweat Co-Director Stephanie Simoes said she was concerned because the decision to sign with adidas had been made without consulting with No Sweat or the general student population.

“Considering that the biggest issue with Russell is Hermosa and adidas has some of the same problems … [the administration] didn’t consult [the students].”

Simoes said Adidas is known to have unethical labour practices at some of its international operations, and that just because the garments are being made in Canada, doesn’t mean they’re produced under adequate conditions.

“Canada might have sweatshops too. We need to look into that. … Just because the origins are known doesn’t mean they’re better.”

To see the Adidas Workplace Standards document visit the News section and click on article "Adidas Workplace Standards."

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