OPEN SEASON: Looking to deter some of the attention from center court, members of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees are expected to stage a rally this evening against Adidas America at the entrance to the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., according to a spokeswoman for UNITE. While plans were still up in the air Wednesday, a protest was tentatively scheduled.
Adidas America is being targeted for using Chipman Union Inc., a Union Point, Ga.-based sock manufacturer. UNITE claims the maker operates under sweatshop conditions. Adidas has a license with Chipman to produce and distribute socks.
Adidas does not sponsor the U.S. Open, but Steffi Graff and Luke and Murphy Jensen are among the players competing in the event who endorse Adidas products.
Sibley Bryan, chief executive officer for Chipman Union, said the allegations are untrue and simply represent an attempt by the union to negotiate higher wages for Chipman Union's 700 employees, who are union members. UNITE and Chipman Union have been negotiating a labor contract since January, he said.
"They're trying to put pressure on us through our customers," Bryan said. "I would rather deal with them across the bargaining table. Why should anyone else be involved?"
Chipman Union attorneys are contemplating filing a lawsuit against UNITE for interfering with the company's business with Adidas, Bryan said.
Last month, during the Canadian Open in Toronto, UNITE representatives distributed leaflets charging that "Adidas socks smell like injustice" and accusing Chipman Union of paying its employees low wages and having safety violations, according to an Adidas spokesman.
Adidas is holding off on any action until negotiations are completed, he said.

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