Last Monday, Student Labor Action Coalition representatives criticized the University of Wisconsin and Chancellor David Ward for the ongoing law suit with Adidas. The pro-labor student organization has found fault with the chancellor for not doing everything in his power, even if it’s foolish, to support workers’ rights. What a surprise.
The representatives made a point of exhibiting their ability to make rhetorical use of legal words, including terms like “toxic contract” and “illegal and morally abhorrent.” What they didn’t demonstrate, however, is that they actually took the time to learn about the situation.
A correspondence between UW’s legal counsel and the law firm representing Adidas lays out the crucial parts of the contract.
SLAC representatives said, “The chancellor disregarded [a recommendation from UW-Madison’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee to put Adidas on notice] and instead entered a mediation period.” They made it sound like Ward flouted the committee, but in reality, he was just trying to prevent the university from being sued. If SLAC had taken the time to read the fine print, they would understand Ward’s intentions because the contract requires that if a dispute arises both parties must enter into mediation.
The rest of the legalese gets fairly complicated, which explains the fact that instead of understanding the problem, SLAC decided that the situation must have been just what they thought it was — because all corporations are evil and the chancellor is always wrong, right? It’s much easier to make a situation fit into your preconceived notions than to keep an open mind, understanding that the true answer might not be the one you want. But hey, at least the SLAC reps would make great objectivists.
Reading through the legalese, one finds that Adidas has no liability. Two key parts of the contract require that first, they don’t knowingly continue business with a subcontractor that violates the law and second, that Adidas must abide by Wisconsin contract law.
I won’t bore you with the details. But looking at the facts, Adidas did not knowingly continue business with PT Kizone. Furthermore, the only way Adidas could possibly be responsible for providing severance pay would be because of a section of Wisconsin contract law that says they would be liable if they had control over the acts of PT Kizone, which they obviously didn’t.
So basically, if you actually took the time to read the relevant documents concerning the whole Adidas-UW situation, you’d realize that Ward is trying to prevent the university from getting sued for wrongly terminating its contract with Adidas. He’s not “stalling” like SLAC accuses, and the lawsuit isn’t “jeopardizing UW’s reputation.” Instead, it is preventing the university from losing money that it certainly would if adidas were to sue over the termination of the contract.
And then of course there’s the other reason UW shouldn’t just cut and run from Adidas: if we did, we wouldn’t have any leverage to get those factory workers their pay. Why the hell would Adidas want to pay them if the university wasn’t putting pressure on them anymore?
Yes, those workers most certainly deserve severance pay. But that doesn’t justify blaming the closest entity you can get your hands on. PT Kizone is the one at fault, not Adidas and not Ward.
But hey, I guess it’s easier to whine than actually do your homework on an issue. And some Madisonites still wonder why Madison is viewed as a place where liberal culture prevents issues from being fully hashed out…
Reginald Young ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in legal studies and Scandinavian studies.