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Adidas faces second hoax by activist collective calling for workers’ rights

By Rachel Douglass


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Yes Man stage hoax against Adidas during Web Summit 2023. Credits: Yes Man.

In what is now the second hoax carried out against Adidas this year, activist collective Yes Man has once again focused its efforts on the German sportswear giant in a bid to draw attention to the rights of garment workers in its supply chain.

All the action took place during the tech conference Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, where activists impersonating Adidas representatives announced that the company was planning to pay workers in virtual currency to purchase goods in a virtual ‘AdiVerse’ that were inaccessible to them in the real world.

Yes Man had previously targeted Adidas during Berlin Fashion Week earlier this year, when a false statement was released to the media suggesting that its CEO, Bjørn Gulden, would be hiring a former garment worker as co-CEO.

The organisation had further claimed that Adidas would sign the Pay Your Workers – Respect Labour Rights agreement, legally binding the brand to compensate and safeguard workers.

Adidas has continued to be criticised for its alleged malpractices against the rights of garment workers, with the Pay Your Workers campaign zoning in on the brand after it failed to ensure workers were paid in full during the pandemic.

Yes Man stage hoax against Adidas during Web Summit 2023. Credits: Yes Man.

The organisation referenced a 2021 report by Switzerland’s Public Eye, where it was concluded that Adidas was the “worst offender in the field of pandemic era wage theft”, with a reported 11 million dollars in back wages understood to be owed to garment workers.

Since 2022, action against the brand has only increased, as unions and labour rights organisations continue to campaign for Adidas to sign the Pay Your Workers agreement, while protests in countries where the company houses its supply chain also continue to take place.

In a release, US director of the Pay Your Workers campaign, Billy Yates, commented: “Adidas spending considerable amounts of money to make up an alternative currency and virtual universe to avoid paying its garment workers what they are owed is not that far from the truth.

“The reality might be even darker: adidas has spent hundreds of millions sponsoring FIFA’s Qatar debacle, while ignoring the rightful claims of workers in Cambodia, Indonesia, and elsewhere to the money they are owed.”

This article has been updated November 17, 14:30, with a response from Adidas.

In a statement to FashionUnited, director of media relations, Stefan Pursche, said: “Even during the pandemic, Adidas has ensured fair working conditions and wages as well as a safe working environment at its suppliers. We have continued to source products from our partners and have fully honoured our payment obligations for produced and ongoing orders. We have also ensured compliance with legal requirements regarding income and social benefits and documented the working conditions in each individual factory.

“The collaboration between the manufacturer Hulu Garment and one of our licensees was limited in time from the outset and expired as contractually agreed in August 2020. All orders were processed and paid in full. An independent arbitration tribunal and the Fair Labour Association were also unable to find any misconduct.

“Adidas has been ensuring fair and safe working conditions for employees in its supply chain for more than 25 years through a variety of measures. The Adidas Workplace Standards require our suppliers to progressively improve workers' compensation and living standards through continuous development of compensation systems, benefits, social programmes and other services. The disposable income of workers in our supplier factories is generally significantly higher than the respective legal minimum wage.”

Yes Man stage hoax against Adidas during Web Summit 2023. Credits: Yes Man.
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Workers Rights