Activists flash mob Adidas on 3rd street for abused workers in China

Last Thursday evening, internationalist solidarity manifested itself at Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade when a coalition of activists flash mobbed the local Adidas store to make shoppers aware of ongoing labor strife and the plight of sweatshop workers in China. The group of approximately two dozen protestors was composed of various students and local activists from the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California.

Their goal was to raise awareness against the sweatshops in China which produce products that companies such as Adidas and Nike sell. Workers at these shops are paid as little as $1.60 an hour and work as many as seven days a week according to the pamphlets the group handed out.

They began their protest by first entering the Adidas store posing as shoppers. After a few minutes group members unfurled signs and banners and began chanting "Adidas, Adidas, you're no good. Treat your workers like you should."

One activist attempted to use a megaphone to inform shoppers of a current strike by 48,000 workers at the Dongguan Yuen factory in China. The workers stopped working at the factory citing unpaid social insurance, housing funds and invalid work contracts.

Adidas store employees immediately intervened and attempted to silence the speaker and convince the protesters to leave the store. The flash mob action turned into a march through the shop which snaked its way outside as shoppers and tourists watched.

At one point, Adidas employees became aggressive in tone and told protesters "you have no place here, you have to leave the store." Others attempted to block photos from being taken.

Some shoppers, like Demetrius Ross, said that human rights concerns influence purchasing decisions.

"I don't want to buy something that oppresses a group of people," Ross said.

Adidas employees refused comment on the situation.

Activists continued to voice their message outside and members of the Industrial Workers of the World labor organization unveiled a red and black Anarchist flag.

Pedro Santiago, a tourist from Jalisco, Mexico was on vacation with his family and they witnessed the protest as it emerged from the store.

"I think it's good," said Santiago. "In Mexico we have a lot of those sweatshops too."

The protest marched down the Promenade, with some of the performers in the area cheering them on. At one point a pamphlet was handed to a singer performing that evening who read the information into his microphone for all to hear.

USC student Mikey Chin, one of the students participating in the protest stated, "We're trying to show people what's going on. Adidas has basically not given workers their pay and they have been keeping money away from them. We're telling Adidas hey, pay your workers what you should."

UCLA student Amy Lin, another activist involved in the event, has a more personal connection to the issue.

"My mother was a factory worker in Taiwan and never received benefits she was entitled to," said Lin. "At the Santa Monica pier a lot of people come to feed money into the economy but they don't recognize that their actions might be harming those on the other end such as workers in China."

The march culminated in the group chanting in front of the Nike shop at the Santa Monica Place. The protesters were not allowed by security to walk past the front entrance sign because the mall is officially designated as private property.

As the protest continued, Francisco Coronado for the Industrial Workers of The World spoke on the evening's events while representing the libertarian socialists in the group.

"As long as people here are more aware that's a gain out of this," said Coronado.

The action was also planned to coincide with the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh where over 1,000 workers were killed.

For a few hours, amid all the shopping and dining, the voices of China's workers echoed through out the Promenade.

Sophia Cheng, the lead organizer of the event, believes that responsibility lies within the companies themselves.

"The brands like Adidas are not taking responsibility for what's happening with the factory worker, " said Cheng. "The brands profit the most off of the factory workers and they set the standards for their subcontractors. In that way they are very responsible for the working conditions."