Skip to main content

Adidas shifts orders after massive strike at Chinese shoe factory

By Wilfred Chan, CNN
updated 6:04 AM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • As many as 50,000 employees are striking at major Adidas and Nike factory
  • Adidas is moving future orders to other suppliers in response to strike
  • Protesters are targeting Adidas, Nike stores around the world

(CNN) -- Workers have walked off the job at one of the world's largest shoe factories, leading apparel maker Adidas to temporarily shift its production.

As many as 50,000 employees are on strike at Yue Yuen Industrial, a major Adidas and Nike supplier in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan. Activists say it's one of China's largest worker strikes ever.

"This is a result of the long-term exploitation of this big enterprise," said Suki Chung, the executive director of Hong Kong nonprofit Labor Action China. "Workers' demands are very clear."

Strikers say that they are not being paid the full amount of social insurance and housing benefits owed to them. Additionally, they say their work contracts are fraudulent, preventing them from enrolling their children in local schools.

China economy: Growing or slowing?
Slower growth in Chinese manufacturing
Watch copper plant protest turn violent

The factory offered last weekend to recalculate its social insurance and housing benefit payments to workers, but did not offer new contracts. The strikers refused the offer.

Adidas responds

Adidas spokeswoman Katja Schreiber said the company was moving some of its future orders from Yue Yuen Dongguan to its other suppliers.

"At the same time, we'd like to point out that we are not pulling out of the Yue Yuen factory in Dongguan and we have no plans to do so," she said.

Nike spokesman Greg Rossiter said the company was in touch with factory management, but did not say whether the company would move production to other facilities.

Teresa Cheng, an organizer with the International Union League for Brand Responsibility, slammed Adidas for moving some of its orders.

"This is the typical behavior of Adidas," she said. "Adidas systematically withdraws its orders and moves them to factories with more exploitative conditions, essentially punishing workers who dare to stand up to sweatshop abuse."

To support strikers at Yue Yuen, Cheng's group has organized protests at Adidas and Nike stores in Tapei, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Los Angeles, New York City, and Melbourne.

China's massive manufacturing sector has slowed in recent months, and many companies have shifted production to China's inland provinces or countries with cheaper labor.

According to Suki Chung, workers in southern China are now worried about long-term job security, leading them to ask for more than just higher wages.

"Workers are in a very insecure position," she said. "They are paranoid they will lose their jobs. If they don't fight at the moment, the factory could be gone very soon."

Activist detained

Zhang Zhiru, a labor rights activist who aided the strike and advised workers, was detained by state security agents Tuesday for two days.

"They took my phone and didn't allow me to contact anyone," he said. "I think they released me because of outside pressure, saying it was illegal for them to detain me."

Despite the incident, Zhang vowed to press on.

"I prepared myself to face these sorts of things when I decided to protect the rights of the public," he said. "If the workers ask me for help again, I will still help them."

CNN Beijing interns Qi Zhang and Lucrieza Su contributed reporting.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT