Adidas’ dirty little secret

The 2012 Olympic games are fast approaching. In a little over a month, over one billion pairs of eyes will be fixed on London’s opening ceremony. What they won’t see, however, is the working conditions faced by factory workers as they produced the official Olympic merchandise, uniforms, mascots, pin badges and sportswear. While the Olympics aims to ‘build a better world through sport’ and promotes values of fair play, respect and equality, evidence published by the Playfair campaign has shown that workers making Olympic-branded goods are being exploited.

Adidas spent £100 million securing their position as the official Olympic sportswear sponsor, yet they have failed to pay many of their factory workers a wage that they can survive on. Not a single worker interviewed by the Playfair  campaign was found to be given a living wage – in Indonesia it was discovered that workers were given a measly 34p an hour.

Imagine this: you are a chinese factory worker. You make clothes. Your wage is not enough to survive. You work from 8am in the morning until 11pm at night. The next day, you wake up and repeat. And the next day. And the next. Some days you don’t finish until the early hours of the morning. You either work overtime to secure enough money for food, or are forced to in order to meet a production deadline. The factory you work in is dusty. You put on a mask, but in doing so your production rates fall and you are abused by your manager as a result. So you take the mask off. In time, you will have respiratory problems and struggle to breathe. The factory is noisy. You aren’t given ear plugs. In time, you develop hearing problems. You spend the whole day on a stool with no back support. In time, you develop back problems. You have no job security. You are harassed by your manager day in and day out and there is nothing you can do about it. Your staff manual states that any activity to educate or organise your fellow workers to secure improvements in your working conditions is a punishable offence; if you dare to even hand out a leaflet, you will be fired immediately. You sit and you sew. You’re coughing. Your back is sore. Your ears ache. You barely have the energy to sew. You may even collapse at work. And still you sew. You have no choice. Any job is better than no job, even if yours is draining you of your life. 

This scenario is not a piece of fiction. It is a day of life for many factory workers living in China and working in a factory producing items for Adidas. It isn’t just workers in China either, there are 775,000 workers, mainly women, in 1,200 factories across 65 countries – all making adidas products. This is exploitation. It’s not ok here. It’s not ok anywhere.

If you wish to send a message to Herbert Hainer, the CEO of Adidas, you can do so right here. All you need is a name and e-mail address, and you can demand that Adidas ends worker exploitation now. 


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