Sweatshop protestors turned a building overlooking Olympic Park into a giant billboard criticizing Adidas for its alleged worker exploitation. War on Want, an anti-poverty charity based in London, beamed the 65-foot-tall projection in time to greet a sellout crowd of 80,000 as they left the men’s 100 meters final on Sunday. Proclaiming “Exploitation: Not OK Here, Not OK Anywhere” beneath the sports manufacturer’s three-striped logo, the video message is the organization’s latest effort to highlight the low wages, abysmal conditions, and physical and verbal abuse nearly 775,000 workers in 1,200 Adidas-contracted factories across 65 countries face.
War on Want members accuse Adidas, an official sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics, of raking in £100 million in Games-related merchandise while workers in countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh skip meals to survive. The protest follows reports that Adidas workers near the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh receive a weekly pay of £10 ($15), are forced to work overtime without compensation, struggle to cover basic necessities, and live in squalid surroundings.
As an official Olympic sponsor, Adidas has sold £100 million in Games-related merchandise, according to War on Want.
“Adidas [is] making millions yet the workers who make their clothes have to skip meals just to get by,” Murray Worthy, a War on Want sweatshop campaigner, says. “This is exploitation. It wouldn’t be okay for Adidas to do this in the U.K. and it shouldn’t be okay anywhere else. Adidas must ensure that workers are paid enough to live.”
Adidas, however, says it “strongly refutes” War on Want’s claims even as it respects the right to peaceful protest. “We take all allegations about working conditions extremely seriously, but it is very important to note that the independent women’s [non-governmental organization] Phulki, which visits our factories on a monthly basis, found absolutely no evidence to support the allegations being made,” according to a spokesman.
The sportswear giant also says its requests to meet with the group have been met by silence. “We have enjoyed an open and constructive dialogue with many NGOs for years, but it seems War on Want are more interested in pursuing a strategy of disruption rather than engaging with us to talk about these issues,” it says. “Adidas is confident we are adhering to and, in fact, exceeding the high standards set by [the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games], and we would urge War on Want to deal in fact rather than fiction.”