On Tuesday, students filed into the Town Hall Room in the Leadership Studies Building to view Yudo Sasmito and Asmiati Wandoyo on the screen through Google Video to speak about their experiences within sweatshop factories in Indonesia.
The two workers are on the forefront of the movement for reimbursement pay after the PT Kizone factory closed in Indonesia. Wandoyo, who was 40 years old, said when the factory closed she did not know how she was going to be able to support her four children and herself. She said she had to send her children to live with their grandparents that are two days away from where she lives in Indonesia.
Yudo Sasmito is a 31-year-old man who worked at PT Kizone for 10 years before it closed. He explained that in February 2011, the owner of the factory fled the country because the factory was on the verge of bankruptcy.
In April 2011, the factory finally went into bankruptcy and was collected by the bank as a debt. Upon the closing of the factory, all of the workers were fired and not paid for their time in the factory. They are still battling to receive their severance wages from the factory.
“I think this presentation is important for K-State students to realize there is more in this world than what they see here at K-State or in Manhattan,” said Kathryn Douglass, sophomore in biological and agricultural sciences. “Even though students may not see the devastation over there and/or the conditions these people are living in. But it’s their reality so we can have cheap clothing.”
Nike, Adidas and the Dallas Cowboys all owe or owed money to the workers from the PT Kizone factory. The Dallas Cowboys paid $500,000 for the part of the factory they owned and Nike paid $1.5 million in unpaid wages. The workers of the PT Kizone factory are still waiting on more than $11 million from Adidas in unpaid severance from the part of the factory they owned.
“The products we buy — we don’t realize how poorly the people are treated for us to be able to have the stuff we do,” said Trevelle Stewart, junior in marketing and mass communications. “They are paid, what did he say, like 60 cents a day for the products we buy here in America. The big brands like Nike and Adidas we buy from don’t really care about the workers that they have in their factories in third world countries.”
To date, 15 universities have broken their contracts with Adidas after learning how Adidas treats their workers in their factories in the Middle East, south Asia and southeast Asia. According to an ABC News article by Matthew Mosk from Jan. 27, 2013, “More than 700 workers have died in factory fires in the past five years. Two months ago, a ferocious blaze at a factory making clothes for major U.S. retailers killed an estimated 112 workers there.”
Even though these factories are being supposedly inspected by the Fair Labor Association, factory owners are still not abiding by the signed agreements between the owners and workers.
“It’s about standing up and letting others know what is happening,” Stewart said. “Our nation [the United States] is doing these terrible things to people and not a lot of people are taking action.”
James Coover, graduate student in agronomy and member of the K-State Coalition for Students Against Sweatshops, said he is incredibly interested in getting Alta Gracia brand into Varney’s. Alta Gracia is a clothing company that prints collegiate logos, which also pays three times the local minimum wage in the Dominican Republic without affecting the price of the apparel in the United States.
“This isn’t just about one factory in one location on the globe,” Coover said. “It’s about how terribly these people are treated in these factories all over the world. Factories will move to entirely new countries if they can pay their workers even 30 cents less per day.”