Protesters ask bookstore to stop carrying Adidas apparel
United Students Against Sweatshops plan flash mob as part of weekend boot camp for campus organizers
Armed with bullhorns, protest signs and a choreographed routine to Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” members of the Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops asked those working at the University’s Barnes and Noble College bookstore to stop selling Adidas apparel yesterday.
Stoni Tomson, a Brown University sophomore who visited the University this weekend to participate in the protest, said the group finds fault with the sporting goods brand because of its factories’ standards overseas.
“There are reports coming out of factories in Indonesia of workers receiving death threats, even one miscarriage right on a factory floor,” she said. “On one level, what Adidas is doing is wrong. On another, it is also violating our schools’ code of conduct policy.”
Anna Barcy, a RUSAS member and event organizer, said they are asking the store to remove the Adidas brand from its shelves while University President Robert L. Barchi decides on the contract the school holds with Adidas.
“We are just doing what they told us to do,” said Barcy, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “It’s time to bring out the big guns. It’s time to take action.”
While protesters asked to speak to the bookstore’s manager, a flash mob broke out in front of the Barnes and Noble Café, chanting and singing. Another group hung a banner from the second floor, while others chanted about sweatshops from the balcony and escalators.
“R-U Sweat-free?” they said. “Hey, you-should be.”
Store personnel and onlookers watched the group while security stepped outside to call for backup. The group left the building on their own accord, after store personnel shut down one side of the escalator and told the group they had broken it.
The Barnes and Noble at Rutgers’ general manager could not be reached by press time.
Outside of the store, protesters marched and chanted while distributing information to passerby about their cause. The Rutgers University Police Department responded and asked the group to keep a safe distance from the store, as not to block access in and out of the building, Barcy said.
After the protest, Barcy said she was pleased with their efforts and feels confident the store’s management received the group’s message.
“It was spectacular,” she said. “I really hope they pull the products after this.”
Hannah Roe, an RUSAS member, said the protest was necessary because setting up a table and talking to members in the store does not get the same idea across as shocking the staff and customers on the spot.
“The plan was to be a surprise and get attention,” she said. “When the event is planned it is not as effective. What’s happening in Indonesia right now is very urgent and we are responding.”
The protest was a culmination of a weekend-long workshop RUSAS hosted for USAS members from other schools interested in the cause.
Students from schools including the University of Massachusetts, Northwestern University, Brown University, Cornell University and Penn State University attended the two-day workshop, held in Scott Hall on the College Avenue campus.
Barcy said the event covered fundamental information members can use for building groups, as well as what each student could do to persuade their respective institutions’ administration to cut contracts with Adidas.
“It solidifies them for student organizing, giving them the tools they need,” she said. “This weekend was not only educational, it was really cool. It was a successful boot camp.”
Roe said the event also taught members how they can use their differences as their strengths, and allowed members to acknowledge issues like racism and sexism.
“We need to understand issues and how they affect people,” she said. “We could hurt people without even knowing it.”
Roe said students have sway over their institutions and should be able to voice their opinions on issues they face.
“They are here for us, so we should have a say,” she said. “Schools have a position as community leaders. We should use our leverage to make a difference.”
Tomson said the event focused on encouraging participating students to get their schools to cut contracts with Adidas.
Tomson said Adidas is breaking Indonesian law by refusing to pay workers severance for factories that have closed. She said the factories’ defense is that they have not been open long enough to be required to pay workers severance.
“By not paying the workers severance, they are violating the law and our school’s code of conduct,” she said. “If we don’t cut these policies, the words of the code become meaningless.”
Tomson said USAS is trying to send a message to all of the universities’ presidents, which they disseminated through the flash mob.
“We will do whatever it takes to stand with the workers,” she said. “We show our school pride wearing these clothes, and it’s shameful when they are produced where worker’s rights are being trampled on.”
Roe said she hopes members from other schools will remember the action they took yesterday and use it as a positive influence at their respective institutions.
“These trainings are strategic, and we hope people will take away creative ideas,” she said. “We used this weekend to grow and network together.”