Adidas was hit with sweatshop allegations on Thursday, with British media reporting that the German sportswear giant’s in-demand “Yeezy” sneakers are being made by factory workers who are forced to work excessive hours and are paid £147 ($183) per month.
According to The Mirror, which teamed up with China Labor Watch – a New York-based non-government organization devoted to increasing transparency of supply chains and factory labor conditions, and advocating for workers’ rights in China – adidas’ limited edition Yeezy Boost 350 V2 sneakers “are made by workers who slave for 10 hours a day, six days a week.”
With the help of China Labor Watch, The Mirror was able to locate the Apache Footwear factory in the Guangdong province, where the coveted shoes are made. While the £147 per month wage that Apache laborers receive is technically above the legal minimum wage of £141, The Mirror notes that it falls far below the average wage in Chinese cities, which is £714.69 a month and less than the price of the £207 Yeezy sneakers they are producing.
Still yet, individuals employed by Apache Footwear told The Mirror that not only are their wages insufficient, but their workday is long and grueling. Factory worker Fang Lee, 39, told the publication that she is expected to stand for 10 hours a day without a break, and if she does not arrive 15 minutes early she could face being fired. Individual factory workers told The Mirror that they are expected to arrive 15 minutes early to sing the company song and attend production meetings, which amount to an hour and a half of unpaid time every week.
“My basic wage is too low, so I have to work overtime to make ends meet. But even if I work 80 hours’ overtime every month, there is nothing much left,” Lee said. By working an extra 20 hours a week, “meaning six, 10-hour days, they can raise take-home pay to £329 a month,” according to The Mirror’s report. Adidas has argued that “its supplier is allowed to take advantage of a loophole allowing some employers to use an average overtime figure for the year.”
André Mendes, an Adidas spokesman, issued a statement on Thursday saying that the monthly wage for Apache staff is £328 a month, which includes benefits, such as performance bonuses, as well as meal and living allowances. He asserted that adidas company is “fully committed to protecting worker rights and ensuring fair and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. Our contract suppliers in China operate within the law and in accordance with those regulations working hours can reach, but not exceed, 60 hours in a week during peak production months.”
Mendez further noted, “Legally mandated rest days, and rest periods during the working day, are strictly enforced. Also to ensure compliance we use a monthly tracking system to check the actual working hours in each of the factory producing for us.” Regarding the early starts, he said, “This practice took place over a year and a half ago and the factory agreed to compensate workers for the time they worked outside of their regular working hours.”
As for whether such claims stand to negtaively affect sales of the hot-selling sneakers, I am very skeptical.