Seventy students from across the U.S. got on an emergency conference call last Tuesday for news they’d been waiting over a year and a half to hear. Mariela Martinez, a student at Brown University, told the listeners, “The PT Kizone workers have reached a historic agreement with Adidas… They’re going to receive the severance that they’re legally owed!”
All it took was an international campaign that engaged workers, students, and activists from around the world.
Legally mandated severance pay is the norm in most apparel-exporting countries. Employers pay severance because of the absence of unemployment benefits. When garment factories close, legally mandated severance is all workers have to rely on. And close they often do, sometimes without notice, because of the relentless price pressure on factory owners from Western brands and retailers.
For two years the 2,700 former workers of the PT Kizone factory in Indonesia, which made apparel for Adidas, Nike, and the Dallas Cowboys, had insisted that Adidas pay them the $1.8 million they were entitled to under Indonesian law.