Ongoing discussions between UW-Madison and adidas came to a halt Friday when the UW administration announced the university would let a court decide if adidas violated its contract with the school.
The university filed an “action for declaratory relief,” which allows the Dane County Circuit Court to decide if adidas met its contractual obligations.
The issue stems from concerns that an Indonesian factory contracted by adidas did not compensate over 2,700 workers after abruptly shutting down in January 2011.
Since then, UW administrators and adidas have disagreed on the proper course of action, with administrators saying adidas' failure to pay severance violates the university's code of conduct. This prompted Chancellor David Ward to enter a period of mediation with adidas to resolve the issue. After no resolution came from the mediation, UW-Madison took the most recent step.
“The reason we wanted to do that was because there is varied opinions on whether or not [adidas has] met their contractual obligations and we’re asking the court to decide that,” Vice Chancellor for University Relations Vince Sweeney said.
However, Lydia Zepeda, chair of the Labor Licensing Policy Committee and professor of consumer science at UW-Madison, said members of the committee do not agree with the decision and worry this is another delay in an already long line of setbacks.
“I’m very disappointed that this is just more delays,” Zepeda said. “We have been waiting since December of 2011 for decisions, and every decision has been to delay making decisions.”
Members of the Student Labor Action Coalition agreed this action was not the ideal course of action, according to SLAC member Lingran Kong.
“We do not feel that this is the appropriate way to engage with adidas at this moment,” Kong said. “It doesn’t make sense to SLAC that currently the UW administration would try to pursue any alternative route other than putting adidas on notice when [adidas has] clearly breached the contract.”
Despite complaints of “stalling” unnecessarily, university administrators defended the legal action as the best option in this scenario.
“At the LLPC meeting there was a lot of frustration voiced about whether this was another delay tactic and we don’t see it that way, we view it as the next best step to take in order to resolve this situation,” Sweeney said.
According to Sweeney, the university cannot take any further action until the court has ruled on the alleged breaches in contract. He said there is no way to estimate how long the court will take to reach a conclusion.