We are making a focused effort this year to get Nike to disclose the wage rates for all of their overseas factories.
How has Nike responded?
To date, Nike has refused to disclose the wage rates for all of their overseas factories.
What does Nike say about factory workers wages?
As I like to say, “Nike is a little schizophrenic on the factory worker wage issue.” Check out the statements below and you will understand why I feel this way.
Nike Founder and Chairman of the Board, Phil Knight on Nike Workers’ Wages
When asked by a PBS reporter if he felt comfortable that Nike factory workers were making a living wage, Phil Knight responded:
“Absolutely. No question about it.”
Mr. Knight was emphatic that workers are paid a living wage, however, he provided no data to back up his claim.
Nike’s 2006 Corporate Responsibility Report on Nike Workers’ Wages
When discussing the issue of living wages, Nike’s 2006 CR Report stated that:
“Some worker advocates suggest that a living wage should be paid. We do not support approach.”
Wait a second. Didn’t Phil Knight say that workers were “absolutely” being paid a living wage, “no question about it”? If Nike’s founder and Chairman of the Board said that workers are being a living wage, why would Nike release a statement in their CR Report saying that Nike does not support living wages be paid to factory workers?
Vada Manager, Former Nike Director of Global Issues Management on Nike Workers’ Wages
When asked by a reporter from HBO Sports about wages for Nike’s factory workers, Vada Manager, Nike’s Director of Global Issues Management said:
“(Nike) raised wages 70 percent in Indonesia. We have a code that applies globally and that provides wages that far surpass regional or national minimum wages.”
In this statement, Nike’s Director of Global Issues Management said that Nike has the power to raise workers wages. (Remember this when you read the next Nike statement.) He also said that Nike’s Code of Conduct “provides wages that far surpass regional or national minimums.” This is a lie. Here is what Nike’s Code of Conduct actually states with regard to worker compensation.
“The contractor provides each employee at least the minimum wage, or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher; provides each employee a clear, written accounting for every pay period; and does not deduct from employee pay for disciplinary infractions.”
Where exactly in this paragraph does Nike provide for “wages that far surpass regional or national minimum wages?”
Hannah Jones, Nike Vice President for Corporate Responsibility on Nike Workers’ Wages
In response to a letter from me, Hannah Jones, Nike’s VP for Corporate Responsibility, wrote the following on April 19, 2009.
“Nike does require that factories manufacturing our products comply with local legal minimum wages, and this is something we aim to verify in our auditing process. However, because factories are not Nike-owned, it is not possible for us to mandate what wages should be paid by the factories to workers. Moreover, this data is not something that we collect; it is owned and managed by factories, which is why Nike cannot disclose workers’ wage rates.”
So, Ms. Jones, Nike’s VP for Corporate Responsibility is saying:
1. That Nike gathers wage data to “verify” that factories are paying the legal minimum wage. This means that Nike has the wage rates for all their production plants.
2. That Nike cannot “mandate what wages should be paid.” But didn’t Vada Manager say above that, “Nike raised wages 70 percent in Indonesia”? If Nike raised wages, doesn’t that mean that they can mandate what wages should be paid?
3. That data on wages “is not something that we (Nike) collect.” But didn’t she say in her first sentence above that Nike audits factories to ensure that they “comply with local legal minimum wages”? When you audit something, don’t you collect data on it? How could Nike be sure that factories are in compliance if this data is “not something we collect”?
4. That based on her statements “Nike cannot disclose workers’ wage rates.”
Clearly Nike wants consumers and investors to remain in the dark on the issue of workers’ wages in their overseas production plants.
So, what do we do to get this information from Nike?
In their 2006 CR Report, Nike said that “transparency is the first step to open-source problem solving.” Given this and the information above, don’t you feel that Nike has a responsibility to their consumers and investors to be transparent and publicly disclose the raw data on factory workers’ wages?
Do you want to join us in demanding that Nike publicly disclose wage rates?
If you said, “yes,” here is what you can do.
1. Send an email right now to Nike CEO, Mark Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org and demand that he publicly disclose wage rates for Nike’s overseas factories.
(I joined Team Sweat because I saw a ) very impressive presentation by Jim Keady at my school, plus my conviction in the principles of Catholic social justice teachings. I am a Catholic high school and college teacher.
- John Groch
Jim Keady spoke at my high school today and his speech was great. I saw Behind the Swoosh and listened to him and it changed the way I look at Nike as a company. I will be sending Phil Knight e-mails about the workers’ wages issue and try to help out your cause.
- Mac Ryan
I saw Jim’s presentation today and was astounded at the conditions that the workers live in. Any support I can give is worth my time a hundred fold. Human rights should not be so blatantly violated.
- Christopher Mulvey
Jim Keady came and visited Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School on November 17, 2009 and informed my peers and I the standards of people that work for Nike over seas and i want to make a difference in any way I can.
- John Antiskay
I joined team sweat because Mr. Keady came to my school, and made me realize what injustices are going on in the world, specifically Indonesia.
- Tom Pierce
I’m joining Team Sweat because as a student and consumer, I had no idea about this issue until I heard Jim Keady speak at the Ignatian Teach In in Columbus and I feel that everyone should know about this issue. I am joining because as a human being and Christian, I cannot be a part of keeping the Nike workers or any sweat shop workers in poverty, I must be a part of a group to help them because the more of us there are working for justice, the more swiftly it will arrive.
- Jasmine Schwartz
Hi Team Sweat, I am just a Mum in Australia (I live in northern New South Wales) and I was asked to talk about slavery and ethical sourcing at a recent church event. We had receivied permission to show part of `Behind the Swoosh’ - so 60 women at a church women’s breakfast saw this short and were moved by it. Thanks for making this documentary, I just wanted to encourage you that the message is still getting out - in places pretty far away from you!
I am not sure how do describe it but I hate the injustice sweatshops have caused.
- Jeff Meckstroth
I saw your presentation at the Ignation Family Teach in and it inspired me.
- Kelly Dean
I listened to your interview with Steve Runner on his podcast and am interested in learning more.
- Annah Maynes
I attend Sacred Heart Prep, and we get all of our sports uniforms and sweats from Nike. I know that we have some deal cut so we get a discount with them but we also spend a couple of weeks first in personal ethics sophomore year and again in social ethics junior year learning about the injustices of sweat shops, watch documentaries, and learn about the conditions workers are put through, then we go out for sports practice that afternoon and suit up in documented sweat shop clothing, I mean come on! It wigs me out and I really want to get involved in learning more of how I can help stop sweat shops to just be allowed to continue the way they are. Its like the money is put before other people’s livelihood, WHAT!
- Sean Reidy
I am for the rights of all people - and the fair wages that all people deserve! I admire and support your efforts, I am giving a speech in my speech class at hocking college about why people should stop buying Nike products. I am finding all of your information very helpful. I hope to inform a lot of new people about Nike.
- Stephanie Renner
I want to do something to help the people that work in the sweatshops.
- Colin Dabagian
Dear Mr. Jim Keady,
I am a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, a school you spoke at a few weeks ago, and I was certainly moved by the speech you gave. Over the years, I have been attracted to Nike and other athletic apparel, and love finding the new Lebron’s, or the new Jordan’s, and get excited about buying them. My outlook has certainly changed, though, over the past few months. My religion teacher showed us the Behind the Swoosh video, and that was the first time I had heard of you and your organization. I knew it had to be a big deal nationally if you were talked about on Sportscenter!
I was amazed, truly amazed, at what kind of conditions you had to endure while you stayed in Indonesia. I think you showed tremendous courage to actually live among the people there to show people here what is going on with Nike. I knew who Phil Knight was before your video, but I certainly did not know of how he is exploiting his workers throughout the world.
I really looked forward to listening to your speech in person because I wanted to hear how you presented this kind of news to kids like us. I paid close attention to the speech and tried to picture myself in helping with this cause. During the speech, you did something that really got to me because of how I have been raised, and what true Jesuit education is. You had pulled out a poster that had the SJP logo, and said “Men For Others” on it. On the bottom of the poster was the Nike swoosh. I remember the whole theater sitting in silence, waiting for what you had to say. That moment had gave me a feeling of guilt, but I know you were trying to make us change to help the cause.
Again, I really think what you are doing to help those workers requires a lot of courage and I extremely admire that. I myself wish to do something in the future to help people who don’t have the opportunities that I have. Most of all, I wanted to thank you for coming to my school and giving that presentation. I really enjoyed it, and have been trying to do some of the things you told me to do. I have joined your facebook group and invited others to join it too! If there is anything else you suggest I could do I would be glad to hear from you.
Sincerely, Kevin Oberlies
Dear Mr. Keady,
I would just like to thank you and share some thoughts of mine about the talk you gave at St. Joe’s Prep a few weeks ago. When we were told by our religion teacher that someone would be coming in to talk to us about problems in sweat shops I thought it would be nothing new. I knew that many were mistreated and overworked, but as most people I thought they were lucky that they were able to get a job that pays anything in a third world country. After seeing your documentary though it changed me completely. These people work night and day just to feed themselves and put four walls around them, but if they have any family at all it becomes just a struggle to survive. Nike claims everyone asks for overtime because they love work so much, but it is because they need more money to feed their families. And as a whole we go after Nike because they are the biggest, but if we can just get Nike to increase wages or help the worker in some fashion the whole industry will follow.
I remember you telling us to join Team Sweat and email Nike operatives, but what else can I do to aid the cause? I know eventually with enough help we will defeat Nike and get them to increase wages, until then I hope the cause is strong and anything you need me to do I am here to help. Thank you again and God bless.
Sincerely, Nicholas J. Fattori
Hi,I’m Pavita, and now I’m in the senior year of high school, a private high school in Jakarta. So, I’d known nothing about this issue until one day,my civil teacher took the whole class to watch a documentary film. ‘The rules of the world’. My eyes were widely opened at that moment. How could I just sit down and do nothing while others in my own country, Indonesia, suffer? I was a consumer, but no longer am. Seeing the “Made in Indonesia” note in the small part of the clothes just make me feel bad. That’s why I want to join Team Sweat! Let’s fight
I want to help fight this unfair system. Everyone is equal and should be treated and paid accordingly. Down with capitalism - democracy for all! No to Nike.
- Roseanne Hoger
Dear Mr. Jim Keady,
My name is Chip Heinz and I am a sophomore at Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School. I attended the speech that you delivered to us on Wednesday, November 18, and I have to say that it wasa very enlightening experience.Before the speech, I had heard that Nikeused sweatshops, butI never reallylooked into the issueand, as I am sure is the case with many other teenagers, Inever really cared. After hearing your speech, however,I realized the magnitude and severity of this problem.
After contemplating the hard facts, I came to the conclusion that I should do something about it, so I decided to make up some fliers and post them on the telephone poles around my neighborhood. In doing so, Iwanted toinform asmany people as possible, both locals and mere passersby, about this issue. I also hope that by posting these fliers this issue is brought to public attention and may one day catch the eye of a news station, whether it be by my posters or by your means.
I can only hope that one day Nike acknowledges this situation and willingly does something about it. I am sure that this belief is shared by many people who alone have no power, but united can make a difference in raising awareness about this inhumane problem. If Nike is everforced to shut down or fix foreign wages, I am positive that other companies will becompelled to do the same, thus leading to a global abolishment of sweatshops for all companies who use them.
Sincerely, Chip Heinz
Dear Mr. Keady,
My name is Will Hartz and I am a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School where, a few weeks ago, you came to speak with the students regarding the issues of sweatshops in foreign countries and Nike’s role in it. Leading up to your appearance at our school, we were given the privilege to watch your video, Behind the Swoosh. When I saw this film for the first time, it was truly mind-blowing. I have heard people mention Nike and sweatshops together before, but honestly, I did not fully believe what they were saying. I could not see how a public corporation such as Nike, being recognized worldwide, and a leader in the industry, could possibly run sweatshops. Unfortunately for myself, and those workers in the sweatshops struggling to make ends meet, I was wrong. The experiment which you and your colleague, Leslie Kretuz, carried out in Indonesia was eye-opening for me. It gave me a firsthand look into the human injustices in our world. Most people have no knowledge on this very important matter and I commend you for taking a stand on this topic. You are able to provide the general public with concrete facts and evidence of these awful events. Having recently gained knowledge regarding Nike’s link to sweatshops, every time I put on a piece of Nike apparel, it makes me stop and think about the lives of the workers that manufactured it, and the injustices that they confront each day of their lives.
The entire Educating for Justice Team has made a tremendous impact for this situation. As you stated in your presentation, you have made significant changes in the plants in Indonesia. These changes, such as a woman’s right to have a menstrual leave and union leaders no longer being abused, killed or threatened by street gangs or the police, have greatly restored the human rights to the workers. Everything that has been done by you and your team, whether small or large, has had an impact and made the lives better for those struggling workers in Indonesia.
I would like to take the time now to thank you for all that you have done so far regarding the issue of sweatshops and all that you will continue to do in the coming years. It takes a lot of courage for a human being to stand up for what he believes in, no matter who tells him not to or it is not sociably acceptable. But instead you keep on going. You have done a great deal in order to change the lives of those that are oppressed, and to ensure that every human being is guaranteed their human rights that they are given at the time of their birth. I hope that this cause may continue to gain strength and I hope that people continue to gain knowledge regarding this very important issue. Best of luck in all that you do and God Bless!
I’m a Creighton University student and a massive Nike supporter who has become concerned about your manufacturing practices in Indonesia. It’s great that you can manufacture at a low cost there, but it seems highly reasonable and undoubtedly ethical to help the workers of your factories to earn a wage that allows them to keep their human dignity. Nike does great work and as a frequent customer I just want to know that Nike workers overseas aren’t being exploited. So until something changes I’m not going to buy anything from Nike. I hope Nike decides to change its practices quicky.
Thanks for your time,
Dear Mr. Parker,
My name is John Mike Devany. I am a senior at Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, Pa and was ashamed to find out that my own high school, one which Itake so much pride in, could be endorsed by a corporation that has done so many terrible things. I don’t understand how a corporation with billions of dollars and insurmountable power and resources could allow their own workers in Indonesia to work in such horrible conditions. I just saw Mr. Keady’s presentation on the working conditions Nike places its workers under and think maybe you should go to see it, too. Obviously you do not understand the situation to its fullextent because if you did I am sure you would do something about it.
John Mike Devany
I will not be able to sleep tonight unless I email you.
Today I was inspired to act on behalf of millions of third-world workers by Jim Keady and by Jesuit theologian, William Reiser, S.J., who wrote recently, “Distance from the poor leads to distance from God.” (America, November 16, 2009; page 14)
I plead with you to share a miniscule portion of your company’s billions with the workers who make your wealth possible.
Please give them more than lip service.
chair, religious studies
st. joseph’s preparatory school
My name is Chadi El-Khoury and I am a senior at Creighton University. I am sitting in on Jim Keady’s presentation right now, “Behind the Swoosh, sweatshops and social justice.” He presented on campus last week and is now speaking at the Ignatian Family Teach-in in Columbus, GA. I am disappointed to hear about Nike’s unwillingness to grant workers their right to a living wage. And I am now embarrassed to wear my Nike shoes. Please spare me the shame.
Dear Mr. Parker,
I like your products but I am sad to hear about Nike’s involvement with
sweatshops and not allowing your workers to make a living wage please
SBST Core Team 2009-2010
I am a student at Saint Louis University. I’m currently sitting in Jim
Keady’s talk on Nike’s global workers, and I’m offended that they are
subjected to these conditions. As a concerned consumer, I ask you to
overhaul your practices regarding the treatment of your workers.
Saint Louis University
Student Government Association
Great Issues Committee
I am a senior at Brebeuf Jesuit in Indianapolis, and I have always loved Nike shoes and sportswear. In fact, Nike makes our school’s basketball and football uniforms, and I have a pair of Nike shoes that I have gotten multiple compliments on. However, this weekend I attended a lecture by Jim Keady, an avid social justice activist, like myself. I had never really cared to look at what goes on behind the scenes at Nike factories or other providers of my material possessions, but Mr. Keady’s talk forced me to see the whole picture, which proved to be shocking and very disheartening.
What goes on behind closed doors at Nike factories in third world countries is enough to make me refuse to buy Nike goods and attempt to convince others to do the same until I see some very serious changes. I would like to see your workers being paid a living wage and not being subjected to degrading circumstances and abuses of their rights. I may just be one voice, but I can assure you that this voice will not stop here. I am going to ask Mr. Keady to speak at our school again, and I’m sure this will encourage others to speak out against Nike and other factories that subject their workers to such harsh conditions.
I refuse to turn the other cheek to this injustice, and I think you should know that to more and more people, the story behind the shoe is taking center stage. Thank you for your time.
Although I knew vaguely about sweatshop abuses throughout the world, I am startled to learn that Nike continues to trample on the rights of human beings and inhibits their ability to live in dignity and respect. As I continue to learn more about the inhumane conditions that people live in as sweatshop workers, I am further committed to not supporting Nike or any other company that creates conditions where their employees do not have equal access to basic necessities, things that we as Americans take for granted daily. I will also work to encourage every person I know that your company continues to violate the basic human rights of people across the world. In a time when it is clear that people and the environment are suffering due to our capitalist, consumerist tendencies, I ask that you reconsider what it is that you stand for as a person and as a company. Please think about the nature of the work that you do and how it impacts the lives of people, especially the most vulnerable in our world. I would also like to ask you to consider and respond to the following:
When asked whether or not Nike production workers are paid a living wage, you responded to a PBS reporter, “Absolutely. No question about it.” I would like you to provide the facts that support this assertion by publicly disclosing hourly wage rates for each factory where Nike products are produced. I am confident that you will do this given Nike’s stated commitment that “Transparency is the first step toward open-source approaches to problem solving.” (Nike 2006 CSR Report)
If your company claims it is committed to transparency in its policies and procedures, then providing this information should be no problem at all.
I look forward to your written response to this request.
Thanks to Team Sweat member, Jeff Ballinger, for sending along the following story about Nike’s Chinese sweatshops. The article talks about “OEMs.” OEMs are “original equipment manufacturers,” companies that make original equipment for Nike.
Peace, Jim Keady
Chinese Media: Nike OEMs In China Alleged To Use Sweatshops
November 18, 2009
Mike, the pseudonym of a person who has allegedly worked as a top executive at a Nike original equipment manufacturer factory in China for six years, is reported in local media as revealing an inside story about sweatshop factories used by Nike OEMs in China.
According to the Daily Economic News report, which consists of a dozen pages, Nike’s Chinese OEMs have been using subcontract labor for many years to make high profits. Shanghai Wande Sports Goods Company and Shanghai Bai’en Sports Goods Company, which are the two major OEMs for Nike’s handmade football business, are alleged to have subcontracted making footballs to workers in remote areas of China between 2003 and 2007.
According to both the Internet news source ifeng.com and China’s Daily Economic News, Mike said that in recent years, Nike’s Chinese football OEMs have used cheap labor from the rural areas of Jiangxi, northern Jiangsu, and Anhui to sew the footballs. He revealed that a finished football is sold at USD8, but it is only priced at USD1 when leaving the factory, while the workers only get USD0.73 for each ball they sew. Mike said that he spent five out the last six years helping the factory hide its behavior when Nike came to audit.
Mike stated that it seemed strange that Nike was not aware of the factory’s illegal practice, given that with a daily production capacity of four or five footballs per person per day the factory, which has a total of about 100 workers, can produce as many as 120,000 footballs each month. Interestingly the factory was even cited by Nike, in its 2008 corporate social responsibility report, as an excellent OEM.
According to Mike, Nike’s CSR department only reviewed such items as the work hours, extra work time and salary amounts on the pay slips provided by the OEM. It is difficult to see purely by looking at the pay slips whether the OEM’s actual output matches its real production capacity, or whether it has been involved in sub-contracting. In addition, Nike’s quality assurance department is only responsible for evaluating the OEM’s product quality and qualified rate. They did know the OEM’s actual output, but they do not audit the actual number of employees of the OEM.
Zhu Jinqian, a spokesperson for Nike, stated to local media that Nike has invited a third-party organization to investigate the OEMs after receiving complaints about them.
Meanwhile many other sports brands, such as Adidas and Puma, are also commissioning third-party organizations to probe into the behavior of their OEMs.
Original story at http://www.chinacsr.com/en/2009/11/18/6603-nike-oems-in-china-alleged-to-use-sweatshops/
On October 29, 2009, I took part in a meeting at TIAA-CREF Headquarters in New York City to discuss how TC could use their roughly $240,000,000.000 investment in Nike stock to bring about change on the ground for Nike’s factory workers.
The hour-long meeting with Roger Ferguson, TC’s CEO, and John Wilson, TC’s Director of Corporate Governance, went very well. I shared information with Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Wilson about my July/August research trip to Indonesia, including the facts that Nike workers in Indonesia are still paid a poverty wage, that they do not have fair union contracts in place, and that there are still basic worker rights being systematically violated.
Mr. Ferguson made a commitment that TC would continue to dialogue with Nike on these issues and to seek documentation from Nike with regard to their monitoring and remediation mechanisms. Along with this effort, I strongly recommended that Mr. Ferguson seek a clear public statement from Nike with regard to the issue of workers’ wages. To date, Nike has been less than consistent on where they stand on this issue and I stressed that consumers and investors have a right to accurate information.
In what can be seen as a positive step forward in TC’s engaging Nike, Mr. Wilson has recently gone on record stating that:
“We… initiated a dialogue with Nike, Inc. about labor and human rights issues.”
Having TC go on public record stating that they are engaging Nike may not seem all that important, but in this fight for justice, every small victory counts.
Phil Knight, the Chairman and founder of Nike, has recenlty been selling off some of his Nike stock.
As reported in the article below, despite the $332,000,000.00 he sold this month, “he remains the company’s largest shareholder by far. He now controls 86.9 million shares of Class A stock, which elects nine of the company’s 12 directors. The stake is worth $5.57 billion, based on Tuesday’s closing price. Knight ranked No. 24 on this year’s Forbes list of the country’s richest people. He has a net worth of roughly $9.5 billion.”
And workers in Indonesia can still live in grinding poverty.
Peace, Jim Keady
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Knight sells another $37M of Nike stock
Portland Business Journal
Nike Inc. co-founder and Chairman Phil Knight sold nearly $37 million of Nike stock Monday and Tuesday, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Knight has sold $332 million, or 5.1 million shares, of Nike stock in the past two weeks.
The selling spree began on Oct. 14 when Knight acquired 5 million shares of the company’s Class B stock in exchange for 5 million shares of the company’s more powerful Class A stock.
Knight sold the shares for between $62.50 and $66.34.
He remains the company’s largest shareholder by far. He now controls 86.9 million shares of Class A stock, which elects nine of the company’s 12 directors. The stake is worth $5.57 billion, based on Tuesday’s closing price.
Knight ranked No. 24 on this year’s Forbes list of the country’s richest people. He has a net worth of roughly $9.5 billion.
Oregonians pay a 9 percent tax on capital gains, meaning the state will collect roughly $30 million from Knight’s recent stock sales.
Nike (NYSE: NKE) shares remain near a 52-week high after closing Monday up less than 1 percent. In the past year, the stock has ranged between $38.24 and $66.35.
Check out the article below from The Cap Times about student activists pushing the University of Wisconsin-Madison to end their relationship with Nike over labor rights violations.
Campus Connection: Committee asks UW-Madison to end Nike deal
Todd Finkelmeyer | Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 7:15 am |
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee voted to recommend that Chancellor Biddy Martin start taking steps to end the university’s apparel contract with Nike, Inc. due to alleged labor rights abuses at two of the company’s factories.
But don’t expect Martin to take any immediate action.
The LLPC’s recommendation on Friday comes after two Nike factories that produce collegiate apparel in Honduras — Vision Tex and Hugger de Honduras — were shuttered early in 2009 without paying legally mandated severance and back pay to some 1,800 workers. The amount owed is more than $2 million.
However, the committee’s vote — which came under the urging of the Student Labor Action Coalition — is strictly advisory.
Dawn Crim, a special assistant to the chancellor for community relations, said Monday the chancellor is hoping to hear back from Nike representatives before taking any major action against the company. She said the university is hoping to receive a phone call from Nike by the end of the week.
“Really, this is about engagement and working with them to remediate the problem,” said Crim. “Nobody wins when contracts are ended. Ultimately, it’s about workers and human rights, and if you end the contract you have no leverage.”
As a licensee of UW-Madison apparel, Nike must follow a university code of conduct for producers. This code, among other things, states that companies must pay these legally mandated wages and other benefits.
Nike paid UW-Madison nearly $50,000 this year to use the university insignia and other logos, such as Bucky Badger.
Jan Van Tol, a member of the Student Labor Action Coalition, on Monday said he generally appreciates the attention Martin is giving this topic. Nonetheless, Van Tol said he was hoping that Martin and the university would take a quicker and harsher stand against Nike.
“There is some truth to the fact that, once you cut a contract, you’re kind of out of the game,” said Van Tol, a student member of the university’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee. “But I think it’s also important to remember this is a national issue. So when UW-Madison cuts a contract, it really opens up the space for other universities to take action, too. Often, they’ll look to us as a leader.”
On Nov. 3, Martin wrote a letter to Nike expressing concerns over a Worker Rights Consortium report which spelled out the conduct violations at the two apparel factories in Honduras. Martin wrote to Nike that “ultimately, we believe under the university code of conduct, it is Nike’s responsibility to ensure that alleged labor rights violations by your subcontractors are remedied.” She then asked that Nike provide detailed information about how the company is dealing with the situation.
Martin requested that Nike respond by Nov. 11. But as of Monday afternoon, Crim said Nike’s only response came on Nov. 10, when it sent out a generic letter to all universities who have been asking about the situation. In it, Nike indicated it “is deeply concerned about the issues raised by the Worker Rights Consortium … ”
“We don’t consider that to be a response to the chancellor’s letter,” said Crim. “That was Nike simply communicating to license directors around the country and was an update of what was going on. It was in no way a response.”
The Nike statement added “it is important to note that, to the best of our knowledge, none of the products manufactured for Nike at either Hugger or Vision Tex was collegiate licensed apparel, aside from a one-time order of 800 units in 2007 for one university partner.”
(I joined Team Sweat because) Jim came to my school and inspired me. - Dylan Nolan
I’ve played soccer all my life, and for most of I have used Nike cleats because I think that they are really comfortable. I saw your video a few months ago and since then I have been trying to find Athletic companies that make soccer cleats that don’t use sweatshops, or exploit people in any way. I haven’t found any yet. I was wondering if there is any brand that is fair trade that makes soccer cleat? If you guys could email that would be awesome, and very appreciated. I believe in what you guys are doing also if there is any way to get involved, please email me. Thank you. - Rico Cabrera
@Rico… There currently is not a major brand that is “sweatfree” that supplies soccer boots. So, I would encourage you to do what I do. Cut the logos off your shoes or cover them up. Yes, we have to wear something to play, but we do not have to walking advertisements for companies that are not in line with our values. Peace, Jim Keady
Jim Keady went to my school, Fordham Prep, and his story touched me and inspired me to help my brothers and sisters that suffer everyday. I am going to raise awareness in my old school which has about 400 children and I’m telling my best friend who goes to another high school and now he is going to address the subject to his class president and religion teachers. I want more ideas to help stop this devilish scheme. - Tony Pecorelli
It (the Nike sweatshop issue) was discussed in class and I want to be part of it (Team Sweat). - Harbakshish Singh
I am passionate about human rights and specifically the rights of children. I am also convinced that one of the problems is the demand that a disposable society with expectations of cheap products places on companies. I also believe that we need to be willing to spend more and buy smartly as consumers to send the message to companies. - Lisa Acheson
I attended your session at Rutgers University-Camden today and wanted to let you know how wonderful I think you are doing. I do plenty of volunteer work helping all different areas of the world. My main charity is helping end child hunger in America. Needless to say I was very honored to attend your session and wanted to let you know that. If you need any help when it comes to spreading the word, please let me know. I would love to be involved in another charity or good organization that involves helping the less fortunate. - Stephanie
I always try to buy sweatshop free products. The injustice that takes place is something I want to help educate more people about. We have a choice every time we buy something, what we buy is what we support. and if more people knew what they were supporting then I believe they would make different decisions. Thanks for all the work you do! - Jessica
(I joined Team Sweat) because I believe in the cause. - Erica Sheeley
It is starting to make me angry that Nike pays very little for more than hard work. And i have a good idea for what we should do to get a small group (10 or 15 people) to be heard. - Matthew Phillips
I took 2 of my junior high girl scouts (Marcy, Marissa) to see your presentation on Thursday, 10/8 at Wilmington College in Ohio. The girls took it upon themselves to, that very night, decorate tee shirts with a message about this issue. My daughter wore hers to school the next day. They also did a pair of jeans the next evening to complete their outfit. I have attached photos for you to see. My daughter did get comments and her teachers were impressed with what she had to tell them about the meaning behind her shirt.
I just wanted to share with you, that it may be a small statement, but the word is getting out! Thanks for a great presentation.
Girl Scout Troop 795
I work for SEIU and no matter where workplace abuses are taking place in this world, we need to fight back the evils of the super wealthy and powerful. - Lance Lindeman
I have followed sweatshop abuses for many years, and being an educator, have exposed many students to problems. Thanks to the work of Jim and Leslie, and of Charlie and others at the National Labor Committee, progress is being made. Sure, it is slow, but it is a step forward. Keep on stepping, Jim, and more and more of us will follow you. - Todd Forman
Well, I was just at a presentation by Jim Keady and was really touched. I was aware of sweatshops and that Nike was a company who participated in inhuman activity. However, I was never present the opportunity to join the cause to stop Nike and this presentation gives me that opportunity. - Melissa Archuleta
A presentation was done at our college, Saint Martins University and took quite an impact on me. I want to join and contribute to bringing justice to this issue. - Chanell Sagon
I saw Jim speak at Saint Martin’s University and was moved by his presentation. This is an issue that requires mass amounts of people to stand up and fight. I am joining this fight. I cannot feel comfortable here in America having everything that I need and most of the stuff I want when there is an injustice so terrible being funded and supported by an enormous American corporation. I realize that there will always be injustice somewhere in the world but Nike is a company that has the ability and the money to change the world, and with great power comes great responsibility. It is time for Nike to stop abusing this power. - Ben Surgalski
Jim Keady had visited my school, CBA, and I agree with his cause. I want these workers to be able to have good standards of living. - Louis Poggioli
I believe that we must put a stop the many injustices that Nike has been participating in through their continued use of sweatshops in Indonesia. - Nick Avino
I’m joining team sweat because of the inspirational lecture Jim Keady delivered at Bucknell University. I am really interested in human rights, which can sometimes be an overwhelming topic because the issues are so large and make you feel so helpless. The progress that Jim Keady has made in his pursuit of workers’ rights in Indonesia gives hope to all of us trying to advocate for human rights. I would love to contribute to the progress made in this worthy cause. I am going to write my email to mark parker right now. - Erika Iouriev
I have joined team sweat because I have been researching you guys for a paper I’m doing on social movements in my persuasion class. What I’ve seen and read makes perfect sense to me and I love what is being done about it! I too am a Christian and I feel that the unfair treatment of sweatshop workers needs to be changed. I feel like I’ve been duped by Nike and I want to dupe them back! - Ryan
I am a high school student who recently sat in a class that Mr. Keady presented to (Christian Brothers Academy) and have just been thinking about the goals of Team Sweat. I also just want to be a part of something that not only is just trying to take down a single world known company, but the overall problem that sweatshops and unfair labor is involved with. - William Gerard
I just learned about (Nike’s) sweatshops and I’m disgusted with the working conditions in Indonesia, China, and everywhere else. I’m embarrassed that I’ve contributed to this fact as a consumer, and I’m going to do all I can to try to change this. I’m going to tell everyone I know about these conditions and I will never buy another (Nike) product as long as I live. (I’m only 19 years old…) - Sydnay Youtz
While I learned about it (Nike’s sweatshops), stopped buying Nike, and bought the (Behind the Swoosh) DVD almost 3 years ago, I was reminded tonight at Jim’s talk of the importance of your mission. It made me super happy that he called my Catholic Jesuit university on selling/branding their athletes with Nike; it angered me when I first came to school and saw that - I don’t remember learning about how sweatshops were a part of Catholic Social Teaching… - Mary Henneberry
I’m from Surabya, Indonesia. I heard about this program from Mr.Keady’s presentation at Creighton University on 11/12/2009. I want to show my support and offer any help I can contribute to the team. - Ayu Pertiwi
I heard you on the fitness rocks podcast (www.fitnessrocks.org). I enjoy Nike and think they can do better…I’ll try and do my bit to help you. - Troy Jensen
By Kristen Lunde
Friday, November 6, 2009 2:41 a.m.
A workshop being held in Grainger Hall today will assess existing methods of global labor standard improvement, specifically in regards to the collegiate apparel industry.
The forum, titled “Improving Labor Standards in Global Supply Chains: Codes of Conduct, Monitoring and Beyond,” will be an exchange of critical and productive points of view about an issue that has been a point of contention on many college campuses, including UW, in recent years.
One of the main goals of the workshop will be to discuss ways universities can be more proactive — rather than reactive — about problems with labor standards, Special Assistant to the Chancellor Dawn Crim said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.
Additionally, Chancellor Biddy Martin will be attending the workshop as a participant to hear and learn more about global supply chains and labor standards.
“The Labor Licensing Policy Committee and [UW] administration are looking for more effective ways to have a positive impact on human rights in the global apparel industry,” Crim said.
A code of conduct is already in place, which governs UW licensees and aspects of production of anything that bears the UW logo, UW spokesperson John Lucas said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald. When issues arise, they are addressed by UW and its Labor Licensing Policy Committee.
“We have had the code of conduct for the past 10 years. They have been beneficial but have had limited impacts,” Crim said. “We wanted to open up a dialogue to see if new initiatives, processes, etc. are available or have a better impact.”
UW is not the only university dealing with labor standards. Students across the United States have been vocal about their opposition to immoral labor practices related to collegiate apparel.
“Most college campuses are grappling with similar issues when it comes to labor standards. We have invited many of them here to join in the discussion,” Crim said.
Although not involved in planning the workshop, the Student Labor Action Coalition has been actively involved in recent talks regarding labor standards at UW.
SLAC recently asked Martin to pressure Nike after the illegal shut down of two factories in Honduras.
“We hope and expect that she will do better than her predecessor by holding Nike accountable through all available means — including severance of Nike’s licensing contract if necessary,” Jan Van Tol of SLAC said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.
According to Van Tol, students consistently demand universities like UW use their international clout to pressure apparel companies to end sweatshops and to respect laborers, as well as their right to unionize.
UW has been one of the most progressive universities in trying to end abuses that occur in the apparel industry, Lucas said.
Although the code of conduct and discussions such as this forum are signs of exemplary progress, Van Tol thinks there is much more that can be done with existing tools.
By Andrea Hammer
Assistant Campus Editor, The Purdue Exponent
Publication Date: 11/06/2009
Eight students with Purdue Organization for Labor Equality marched to the University president’s office reception area with a “gift” of $2 and a half million in play money Thursday and were later removed from the building by University police.
In support of labor equality, the students marched into Hovde Hall and went to President France Córdova’s office to make their concerns known. Organization member Dan Kercher, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said the organization found out about a violation of Purdue’s Code of Conduct with apparel licenses at two factories in Honduras.
According to the Worker Rights Consortium, the factories, which produced Nike apparel, were closed by subcontractors without any kind of warning to workers. The workers were owed $2.5 million in severance pay when the factories were shut down. The equipment was liquidated, providing the workers with a small portion of their money, but they are still owed more than $2.1 million.
After reading a page-long letter detailing their grievances, students dumped the play money on the floor of the reception area. An administrator insisted that he would take the letter, but said the students needed to leave. When the students were asked to pick up the play money, they refused.
Gautam Kumaraswamy, a junior in the College of Engineering and a member of the organization, said the students were under the impression they were in a public place because they were in a reception area and they did not want the play money back.
“What we put down in there is what we gave to the University,” he said.
After handing over the letter, students were ordered to leave the building by Purdue Police.
Brian Napoletano, a graduate student who participated, said letting sweatshops produce clothing with the Purdue logo on it is sending the wrong message.
“By letting them use the Purdue logo, they’re representing Purdue,” he said.
Purdue Police Chief John Cox said he supports freedom of speech, but students must be within University policies with their events and protests.
“They can work with space management to arrange the use of space,” he said.
Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said this breach of contract by Nike will be handled the same way as last year’s incident with Russell Athletics. After investigating claims of labor inequality brought forth by the Organization for Labor Equality last year, Purdue cut ties with Russell.
“This has just been brought to our attention,” Norberg said. “We have a committee that will look at it.”
Below is a letter to Nike CEO, Mark Parker from Sarah Meyers, a swimmer and student at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, WA.
Have you sent your email to Mr. Parker yet?
His email address is email@example.com.
Peace, Jim Keady
My name is Sarah Meyers and I am a student at Saint Martin’s University. Yesterday afternoon I attended a presentation by Jim Keady and I was amazed at what he had to say, and amazed at the proof he brought with him. Jim informed me that out of the 6 billion people on this earth, only 1% has a college education. I am on my way toward being in that lucky 1% of humanity.
I was wondering if you K N E W of the power you, and Nike, has to change thousands and thousands of people’s lives. Do you know?
Do you even know what a DOLLAR is worth to some people? To most people? To thousands of your employees? (and YES they are Nike’s employees because they work in a giant building with NIKE on it, and build all of Nike’s products etc) A dollar is a huge deal to them. It’s their daily bread. They get to spend one per day. What would you do if you could only spend one dollar per day? Do you think you couldn’t do it? Neither could I. You are forcing this neighborhood, these families, to do something impossible.
I have talked to my swim team coach back home, and we will not be purchasing Nike swim gear until your company stops the lies, and pays your employees what they are worth as human beings.
The American Federation of Teachers has passed a resolution that publicly pressures TIAA-CREF (www.tiaa-cref.org) to do more to engage Nike and other companies on labor issues. TIAA-CREF currently owns approximately $230,000,000.00 in Nike stock, making them one of the largest institutional owners of Nike stock in the world.
AFT’s Urges TIAA-CREF to Promote Fair Labor Standards
As an organization, the AFT is concerned not only with the working conditions of faculty and staff in higher education, but also with promoting fair labor standards for all workers.
Today, the AFT Executive Council continued that commitment by urging TIAA-CREF to promote better corporate governance and social responsibility among the companies in which it invests. A significant number of AFT members in higher education have their pensions invested in TIAA-CREF. In response to concerns raised by those members, the Council unanimously passed a resolution entitled “Aligning TIAA-CREF Investment Policies with Participant Ethical Standards.”
“This resolution is intended to press TIAA-CREF to use their resources and investment capacity to push corporations to act ethically and responsibly with regard to labor” stated AFT vice-president Phil Smith, who moved the adoption of the resolution. Smith, President of the United University Professions at the State University of New York, went on to note the resolution was “in line with the socially conscious perspective of AFT members.”
The resolution calls for TIAA-CREF to:
* strengthen its commitment and to devote further resources to promote human, civil and labor rights in its investment screening, shareholder advocacy, community investments and public policy; and
* substantially strengthen its capacity for the oversight and engagement of the companies in which it invests; and
* adopt an explicit policy of engaging all of its portfolio companies to promote the ILO Core Labor Standards, which include:
* Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor
* Effective abolition of child labor
* Equality of opportunity and treatment
* Freedom of association
* Right to collective bargaining
* significantly increase its transparency and disclosure of its screening practices and its shareholder advocacy on issues of human, civil and labor rights.
AFT has been in an on-going dialogue with TIAA-CREF on these issues and will continue to encourage TIAA-CREF to improve its corporate governance guidelines in these key areas related to labor.
JIM KEADY, Founder of Team Sweat
Twelve years ago this month I got involved in the fight to end Nike’s sweatshop abuses. Twelve years is one third of my life. It’s somewhat surreal when I think of it like that.
In 1997, I was in my first season as a graduate assistant coach with the Men’s Soccer Team at St. John’s University, the defending NCAA Division I National Champions. Along with my coaching, I was pursuing a masters degree in Theology. For one of my first classes, I was charged with writing a research paper linking moral theology and sports. I researched Nike’s sweatshops in light of Catholic Social Teaching. Simultaneously, the SJU Athletic Department was negotiating a $3,500,000.00 million dollar endorsement contract with Nike.
Within six months I was at the center of a campus-wide debate over whether SJU should ink the deal. Within ten months I was given an ultimatum by my head coach, “Wear Nike and drop this issue, or resign.”
I resigned in protest and became the first (and still the only) athlete or coach in the world to say “no” to taking part in a Nike endorsement deal because of their sweatshop abuses.
The NY Times and the AP Wire picked up my story and I became an instant expert on the sweatshop issue. My critics charged that those were “great jobs for those poor people” and that “you can live like a king on a sweatshop wage in places like Indonesia.” I knew from my research that they were wrong, but I wanted to prove it.
In July 2000 I lived with Nike factory workers in Indonesia. I lived in conditions they lived in and on the wages they paid - $1.25 a day. I lost 25lbs in a month in a rat-infested slum in Tangerang, Indonesia, home to tens of thousands of the women and men who produce the Nike sneakers adored by so many athletes and consumers.
Following that initial immersion in 2000, I conducted field research in 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2009; I took part in demonstrations on three continents; I met with an Indonesian President (Wahid) and members of the U.S. Congress; I led workshops and listening sessions with Nike workers from a dozen factories in Bekasi, Bogor, Bandung, Balaraja, Tangerang, and Jakarta; I lobbied Nike shareholders and was escorted by police from at least one shareholder meeting; I produced a short documentary, “Behind the Swoosh” and am currently producing a feature documentary and writing a book, both under the title, SWEAT; I lectured at more than 400 schools in 39 states and in three different countries; and I met with representatives from Nike at all levels, including Nike founder and chairman, Phil Knight.
Has there been any progress? Has anything changed?
Yes. For example, because of the pressure that was placed on Nike by consumers, women workers no longer have to prove they are menstruating to get their legally guaranteed leave. Also, workers are no longer beaten with machetes or threatened at gunpoint for union organizing activity.
However, while we have seen the progress mentioned above, we still have no movement on the two most important issues - Nike workers are still being paid a poverty wage and Nike still refuses to bargain with their workers in good faith.
Because Nike has lied about working conditions and many consumers, even so-called progressives, believe that Nike “fixed those sweatshop problems.” They did not.
How do I know?
I was in Indonesia as recently as August 2009 and in my meetings with workers I heard all too familiar stories of inadequate wages, forced overtime, illegal firings for union organizing, workers being cheated out of pay, etc.
In part, what made this trip slightly different, was that Caitlin Morris, Nike’s Director of Sustainable Business and Innovation, accompanied me. So now, when I put forth a charge about Nike’s sweatshop abuses, Nike cannot say it isn’t true as Ms. Morris was in the room with me when the latest round of videotaped allegations were made.
Now, some may want to give Nike a tremendous amount of credit for sending Ms. Morris to Indonesia with me and for taking action on the aforementioned menstrual leave and union organizing issues. I give Nike no credit for these. Why? Because Nike did not make any of these improvements voluntarily; they needed to be publicly embarrassed and pilloried to make each of these changes. Congratulating Nike for discontinuing these corporate crimes would be like congratulating a thief for no longer stealing or congratulating a rapist for no longer raping.
So, what do we do to get Nike to take action on the wage and collective bargaining issues? The same stuff we did to get them to move on the other human rights violations.
We engage, we demonstrate, we publicly embarrass, and we organize, organize, organize!
The October 19th edition of Forbes Magazine announced the Forbes 400 Revolutionaries, men and women whom Forbes considers “captains of capitalism (who) built a product, created a market or satisfied a need that touches us all.”
Topping this list is Nike founder and chairman, Phil Knight. Forbes noted that the 71-year-old Knight has created the largest sportswear company in the world with $19,200,000,000.00 in sales last year and that Knight has a personal net worth of $9,500,000,000.00 - $6,000,000,000.00 of which is in Nike stock.
What Forbes neglected to mention is that Mr. Knight’s wealth has been amassed on the backs of mostly young women in Asia who, despite producing his products for 20 years, still live in abject poverty.
If we use the lens of history as our guide, Phil Knight is doing nothing new. To make himself really rich, he is exploiting the poverty, lack of education, and desperation of marginalized people. What exactly is “revolutionary” about taking advantage of the poor for selfish financial gain? Before Mr. Knight, this path was paved well by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the robber barons of industrial Europe, and the slave masters of the American south.
Rather than praise Mr. Knight’s unjust actions, people of good will should challenge him. An excellent place to start would be with the words of the Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah.
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper room by injustice; who makes neighbor serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages… you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.” (Jeremiah 22)
If Mr. Knight were to act justly in light of this prophetic warning, that would warrant his being called a revolutionary.
The writer is the Director of Educating for Justice, Inc. and for 12 years has engaged Mr. Knight and Nike regarding fair wages for factory workers. To learn more about Mr. Keady’s work on this issue, visit www.teamsweat.org.
Poverty affects millions (billions?) of people worldwide, including people living in “developed” countries. There are numerous social consequences of poverty that impact all of us, even if we aren’t poor. In this episode of Fitness Rocks I briefly discuss a paper from the Journal of the American Medical Associationabout why we should care about people living in poverty who suffer poor health. The bottom line is that their poor health becomes a risk for your health – listen to the podcast to hear how that works.
I also have an interview with Jim Keady of TeamSweat.org in this episode. Jim talks about his work on behalf of Indonesian factory workers over the past twelve years. These people, according to Jim who has lived among them, are living in horrible conditions while they work in factories making products for Nike.
I tried to get a representative from Nike to do a telephone interview telling their side of Jim Keady’s story, but my request was denied. If you are a Nike representative, the offer to come on Fitness Rocks is always open. I like Nike products and I want to keep buying them – please convince me, and everybody else, that there is no ethical reason why I should avoid your products.
I urge you to watch the twenty-minute video called Behind the Swoosh. It is a video documentary of Jim’s experience living in an Indonesian slum on $1.25 per day.
Poverty is not a liberal or a conservative issue. It is a global issue with negative consequences that affect everybody. Fitness Rocks is a health and fitness podcast so I focus my discussion on how Poverty creates health risks for people around the world, including you.
I am NOT responsible for the opinions or data presented by Jim Keady in Fitness Rocks Podcast 144. I am merely a person interested in the work Jim Keady is doing, and I want to share his story with people who listen to Fitness Rocks. I am not accusing Nike of anything, but I would like to hear their response to Jim’s report from Indonesia.
Former Collegiate Athlete/Coach Takes on Nike’s Third World Labor Practices
Jim Keady was a coach with St. John’s University’s 1997 national champion men’s soccer team which given the ultimatum to either stop questioning Nike’s labor practices or resign.
Jim Keady has made a living from calling out Nike and the other sportswear-manufacturing giants for their alleged exploitation of labor in Third World countries.
The former collegiate athlete and coach will speak at Wilmington College Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m., in Heiland Theatre.
The event, which is free of charge, is the second of four programs in WC’s 2009-10 Issues & Artists Series.
In his presentation, titled “Behind the Swoosh: Sweatshops and Social Justice,” Keady will relate the story of losing his coaching job at St. John’s University for challenging Nike’s “sweatshop labor” practices. He has since made the issue of worker exploitation his life’s mission.
In the summer of 2000, he lived with factory workers in an Indonesian slum, trying to survive on their wage of 23 cents an hour. There he documented what workers’ lives are really like.
“I lived in a 9×9 box, sleeping on a reed mat on a cement floor for 30 days,” said Keady, “I lost 25 pounds trying live like a Nike factory worker.”
Since that initial trip, Keady has returned to Indonesia on multiple occasions, most recently in January 2008, to learn more about Nike’s overseas operations.
He has also taken part in grassroots campaigns and demonstrations on three continents that were focused on raising consumers’ awareness about Nike’s sweatshops.
He is currently producing and directing a feature documentary film about Nike’s operations in Indonesia called SWEAT.
SLAC protests in chancellor’s office over sweatshop concerns
By Kelsey Gunderson
Published Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The Student Labor Action Coalition protested at Chancellor Biddy Martin’s office Wednesday to voice their concerns with UW-Madison’s actions toward sweatshop conditions.
SLAC members gathered in Martin’s office and asked to speak with her regarding their concerns with clothing factories owned by Nike, who has an apparel contract with UW-Madison.
According to Daniel Cox, a UW-Madison student and SLAC organizer, Nike closed a factory in Honduras, fired their workers and refused to give them severance pay, which is prohibited under the code of conduct all apparel companies have with UW-Madison.
“The university is getting apparel from sweatshops with bad working conditions,” he said. “It reflects badly on the university and the students.”
Jonah Zinn, also a UW-Madison student and SLAC organizer, said UW-Madison plans to host a $50,000 educational program to inform the university’s licensees about the code of conduct regarding the treatment of workers in labor shops.
Zinn said SLAC was uncertain about the necessity of the program.
“We don’t think that these companies can really plead ignorance on the issue of the labor code of conduct,” he said. “By signing a legal document, they are aware of their actions and the implications.”
Zinn said aside from feeling the program was unwarranted, he was also concerned about where the funds were coming from.
According to Cox, SLAC submitted letters to Martin within the past month and never received a response.
However, both Cox and Zinn said they felt Martin listened to their concerns Wednesday and seemed willing to help take further action against sweatshop conditions.
“[Martin] was pretty respectful,” he said. “She expressed her concern and said that she would definitely take an active role once we have the official reports out.”
Cox said he hopes after today’s event, UW-Madison will take a stronger stance against sweatshops.
“The administration should lean on these companies and make sure that they are expected to follow the code of conduct which they are legally bound to, and if they do not, they should no longer have the opportunity of making [University of] Wisconsin apparel,” he said.
Here is a letter that a marathon runner sent to Nike CEO, Mark Parker this week. I thought it might inspire you to take the time to write to Mr. Parker about Nike’s sweatshop abuses. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace, Jim Keady
I listened to the most recent episode of the popular running podcast
“Phedippidations “today. It featured an hour long interview with a man I think you know - Jim Keady of Team Sweat. I was already aware of reports about the working conditions of people in Nike factories around the world, and it already bothered me. This podcast made me really think about the issue.
I have worn Nike shoes and exercise apparel for more than three
decades. My closet is full of Nike gear.
Jim Keady’s interview was compelling and I have to say that I will not
buy any additional Nike products until I have heard from your company
that Nike is changing their labor practices. I recognize that Nike is
not the only corporation involved with poor working conditions, but you
are certainly one of the most visible for people like me who spend much
of their life engaged in sports.
I first learned about Nike as kid running high school track in Texas in
the mid 70’s. A new kid who was the current junior national champion in
the mile moved to our town from Oregon. He showed up the first day of
track practice wearing a goofy looking pair of shoes with a waffle
bottom. The shoes weren’t available in our town and without the
internet it took a considerable effort for any of us to get a pair - but
we did, and we loved them. Since that time I have always viewed Nike as
a company with whom I shared a common vision, which I realize is naive.
But, I really believed you were all about running and sports and the
people who used your products. I believed, for no obvious reason, that
you were a good corporate citizen because you shared a bond with me as a
runner. That’s nonsensical, I know, but it isn’t a bad image for you to
have - is it?
I also have a podcast - Fitness Rocks (www.fitnessrocks.org) and I may
follow Steve Runner’s lead in producing a show about Team Sweat. I
would be very happy to offer the Nike side of the story if you, or
someone at Nike, would talk to me in a telephone interview. I would
sincerely like you to convince me, and my listeners, that it is OK to
buy your shoes, because I like them, and I don’t want to give them up.
The match made in sports marketing heaven has been a marriage like any other, for better or for worse.
Most prominent among the rough spots were the reports that Nike used sweatshops in Indonesia. In 1996, human-rights and labor advocates demanded that Nike improve pay and conditions for its workers.
Nike said it subcontracted its work and had no control over how the workers were treated, although it said it had tried to improve conditions.
But Michael Jordan only fueled the fire with a response that infuriated his critics.
During the 1996 NBA Finals, when asked about the alleged abuse of child workers, Jordan said: “I think that’s Nike’s decision to do what they can to make sure everything is correctly done. I don’t know the complete situation. Why should I? I’m trying to do my job.”
No matter how many press releases Nike churned out to document the millions invested in continuing education and low-interest loans in those underprivileged countries, Jordan, as Nike’s biggest attraction, remained the focal point of criticism.
Likewise, many consider Jordan’s iconic Jumpman as a symbol for greed in sports. Jordan’s Hall of Fame exhibit already has been panned for having too much Nike, not enough Mike.
To those most critical of Jordan, every shoe sold under his name takes him one step further from his social responsibility.
Howard White, vice president of marketing for Jordan Brand, and those close to Jordan have heard the charge often — and scoff every time.
“You always hear Michael doesn’t give back to the community,” White said with a sigh. “But to me he makes some of the boldest social statements in the world: show up for work, be on time and be accountable for your job.”
Jordan’s success also created unexpected consequences.
The unprecedented annual demand for each new design of the Air Jordan sneakers elevated the shoes to such status symbols in many American cities that youths were using any means to get a pair, including violence. Fame had never felt so conflicting to Jordan than when he considered kids were literally dying to wear his shoes.
“People started robbing each other for the shoes, and it bothered him,” said Tinker Hatfield, Nike’s vice president of innovation and the primary designer for the Air Jordan line. “We were all sad, but it was much more a comment on materialism and people not respecting life. There was something else in our society driving that behavior so we never felt guilty or responsible or thought we would dial back and do less cool stuff, and Michael was adamant about that.”
WASHINGTON – Nike Inc. spent $120,000 in the second quarter to lobby on physical education, trade, patent reform and other matters, according to a recent disclosure report.
Besides Congress, the Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic shoe and apparel company lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative and the departments of Health and Human Services, State and Treasury during the April-June period, according to the report filed July 20 with the House clerk’s office.
Check out “Steve Runner’s” Phedippidations PodCast . This week TEAM SWEAT is the feature story. Steve’s show goes out to 10,000 runners around the world. The show just went up this morning and already we have been flooded with runners interested in joining the fight to end Nike’s sweatshop abuses.
My Nike Nightmare
Written by D. Jayadikarta
Edited by Wakidi
It was May 2000 and I found myself bouncing on a wooden bench masquerading as a passenger’s seat in a public mini-bus in Southern Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. I was on my way to a job interview with Fengtay Enterprises, Ltd., a Taiwanese-based company that proudly manufactured Nike footwear for overseas markets. The sun was perched high, the road was covered with dust, and potholes seemed to be everywhere. The mini-bus passed so many factories along the poor winding road that I did not even have time to read names on the sides of the buildings, they were producing everything here from chocolate to garments to electronics.
Although the road was designed for vehicles to access the factories in Southern Bandung, it was built with cheap materials – most likely some local official lined their pockets with the money that was to be spent to build a proper thoroughfare – and I stared to get car sick as the mini-bus swerved to avoid the potholes. I was desperate to arrive at my destination and I thought that my long, uncomfortable journey would never come to an end.
I finally arrived and found myself standing in front of a tall, pale blue, steel gate. The gate was emblazoned with a dark blue globe logo with the initials IW in the center. I later found out that IW was the Nike factory ID for Fengtay and that each factory in Asia had its own two-letter Nike identifier. There was no Nike Swoosh or pictures of Michael Jordan with his $200 basketball sneakers to be found. This was very different from the images I had of Nike, generated by their slick advertising in the Jakarta malls. I thought, “I cannot be in the right place. This doesn’t’ look like a Nike factory, it looks like a prison.”
I walked towards the security office and asked the guards stationed behind the glass sitting at their desk if this was where I was supposed to be. “Yes, Fengtay Enterprise, Ltd.,” he said with a cold, suspicious look. I was relieved. The last thing I wanted to have to do was get back on that mini-bus and I certainly did not want to be lost in the polluted slum that surrounded the factory complex.
A few weeks after the job interview, I was officially employed at Fengtay. But there was no feeling of the excitement that one usually gets when one finally lands a new job. Even though I was unemployed for a while, a result of the economic crisis in Indonesia, I just was not elated by my new position, something seemed wrong about it from the beginning. But what choice did I have? Since the crisis, people like me had lost hope of finding work that had real meaning or hope a future. You simply took the best job you could get to avoid poverty and hunger, unless you wanted to live on the street and attempt to survive on instant noodles everyday.
I was told that Fengtay employed around 9000 people from around the neighborhoods of Bandung and Banjaran. It was such a massive factory complex. I worked in the main office building in the Business Department. Due to the nature of my work, I had to leave the office more often than my co-workers and tour the factory floor where those famous Nike shoes are born. On my first walk through the plant, I was completely shocked to hear factory managers (you know them by the pink identity badges hanging from their shirt pockets) swearing at workers as if they were dogs. As if this were not bad enough, I saw women workers, late in their pregnancies, pushing massive cartloads of materials for making shoe uppers. I had never seen anything like this. Is this what all the factories were like in my country?
That night, back in my room at the boarding house, I could not sleep at all. I was haunted by the images of those young, female factory workers – most of them high school graduates in their late teens and early twenties - being verbally abused by the managers. I felt that I was trapped in a labyrinth of poverty and exploitation. Suddenly, the dream of making Nike’s world-famous sneakers became a nightmare. This nightmare would play itself out day after day, and I would not awaken from it until the day that I quit working at Fengtay.
The abuse was not limited to the factory floor, but could be found in the management offices as well. The Taiwanese bosses felt they had license to mistreat the employees whenever and wherever they pleased. Both the male and female bosses, had one thing in mind – meet the production target – and they did whatever the felt they needed to do to make this happen. If the target was not reached, they may get a low ranking from Nike (which could cost them future orders) and they would not let this happen. Through this single-minded focus on meeting targets, these women and men lost their sense of humanity. They became machines, slaves to Nike’s production quotas. The young women on the factory floor paid the harshest price and were abused regularly. It did not matter if it was your first day or your five hundredth day – you were to work, fast, like you have never worked before.
Everything had to be done to perfection to meet the target and Nike’s quality standards. If the managers feared this was not happening, workers were yelled at, they were called “dogs” and “goats.” At times the screaming of the managers rivaled the screaming of the machines on the production lines. Their mouths spewed filthy words, their weapons to motivate workers, to boost production on the lines to meet the export date targets. Targets – that was what it was all about.
The factory reluctantly supplied lunch to the workers. When I first saw what was served, I doubted that what was wrapped in the brown, plastic-coated paper could qualify for human consumption. Once I opened it, I felt pity and shame. The food was complete rubbish; low quality rice, stinky, tiny salty-fish, and chunks of a mystery vegetable. This menu for workers was repeated over and over again.
Not far from the giant lunch shed where workers ate was a nice, clean, modern building where the Taiwanese bosses dined. Their meals were of the highest quality. They also had modern accommodations on-site and even a little golf course to entertain themselves when they were stuck at the factory for the weekend.
These Taiwanese managers were so arrogant and dictatorial. They ran they factory like a totalitarian regime. You couldn’t even expect a smile from them, because to them, you were less than human. To them, you were “labor,” another line item on the balance sheet, a commodity to be bought and used at the cheapest price possible.
The Taiwanese all held the highest and most influential positions in each of the divisions at the plant and they walked around the factory complex like spies, keeping tabs on all the workers’ activities. If they found something that they didn’t meet their standards, they felt they could do anything they wanted to rectify it. If you were lucky, they only scolded and yelled at you in a “special meeting” with the Chinese-Indonesian interpreters. If it was your unlucky day, you were demoted to the lowest rank on the production line.
When I think of my time at Fengtay, I liken it to having your body covered with a rash. It itches and burns each day and you feel the discomfort, mentally and physically, but it does not kill you and you press on. Yes, my Nike nightmare brought me to the darkest point in my life. I no longer knew what it meant to be a human being, running freely and enjoying life, like Michael Jordan or any of the countless others at Nike that make their millions off our sweat and broken dreams.
I came to Fengtay to be a part of the Nike dream, to share in their success, and hopefully to help my nation move out of the economic crisis. But instead, I spun my wheels on the Nike treadmill and generated wealth for everyone – the Taiwanese managers, the Nike executives, the Nike athletes, the Nike shareholders – but my fellow countrymen and women. In the end, I was no better than when I started.
Then, some questions started popping into my head. How did these Taiwanese bosses get like this? Was their behavior the result of the pressure they were under from Nike to meet the production targets? Why were these things happening my country? Why had we Indonesians ended up being slaves in our own land to foreign interests?
One day I went to one of the fancy malls in central Jakarta. I stood there, outside the Plaza Indonesia, looking up at a giant Nike ad, the Nike Swoosh painted on a massive glass window display, and I started to cry. I could not get the workers out of my mind. And then I saw the prices being charged for the Nike shoes that were made at factories like Fengtay. I had to pause and take a deep breath to avoid being overcome with even more emotion. There were the Air Walks, the Air Macs, the Air Rifts, the Baby Jordans, the Jordans, and all the other latest models. Why were the shoes so expensive, priced at a level that only those in the highest class could afford? I knew what they cost to make and what workers were paid. It just was not fair.
The workers know that their jobs at the factory will not make them millionaires, but they do want fair salaries and a future for themselves and their children. Is that too much to ask from Nike? Perhaps if the Nike executives walked in their shoes for a while, perhaps if the Nike executives lived in the workers’ hovels in the villages, perhaps if the Nike executives felt the workers’ sweat poured out on the factory floor each day, then maybe they would understand. If they understood, then perhaps these Nike executives would show workers the respect they deserve and they would treat them with honor and dignity in their homeland.
Please check out the article below that was originally published in Forbes Magazine at http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/01/corporate-social-responsibility-leadership-citizenship-ibm.html.
What does this information mean for a company like Nike that spends millions of dollars and has more than 130 people working full-time on CSR issues. Is anything really getting accomplished with these current efforts or do they need to completely change their strategies moving forward? How much data is Nike gathering from reliable sources in countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and China (the four largest producers of Nike products)? What if Nike put a CSR data collection model in place that rivaled the data collection model they have for manufacturing efficiencies? What kind of information could be collected and then acted upon?
Peace, Jim Keady
Corporate Social Responsibility: Much More Talk Than Action
By Eric Riddleberger and Jeff Hittner 07.01.09, 4:29 PM ET
IBM recently completed its second annual survey of senior executives around the world asking them how they are handling green and sustainability issues in their corporate strategies. The results are encouraging in some respects, but they show how very far businesses still need to go to truly be on the road to sustainability. The overwhelming majority of the 224 respondents said they are committed to incorporating principles of corporate social responsibility into their business strategies–despite the global recession–as a way to improve their business performance, their contribution to society and their reputation. Some 60% said this was more important to them than a year ago; only 6% said it was less.
We now live in faster, flatter, more interconnected world, and that’s changing business strategies as companies become more aware of systemic risk and its consequences. Also, executives recognize that all kinds of stakeholders–investors, partners, employees, governments, non-governmental organizations and above all customers–are very concerned about sustainability issues. They closely monitor what companies do and make decisions based on what they see. These conditions make a strong case for a sustainable approach to doing business, one that recognizes that the long-term health of an organization is inextricably tied to the well-being of society and the planet. And businesses, for the most part, are no longer just paying lip service to sustainability. They’re trying to optimize their operations to reduce environmental impact and improve social effects while also improving business performance. But our survey shows a significant gap between the business and sustainability goals companies are setting for themselves and what they are actually doing to attain them. And information is at the heart of the problem.
Specifically, our survey findings show that:
–Companies aren’t collecting and analyzing the information they really need or aggregating it often enough. Because of that, they can’t implement real changes to fundamentally increase efficiency, lower costs, reduce environmental impact and improve their reputations with key stakeholders.
–Few are collecting enough data from their global supply chain partners, so they’re missing major opportunities to reduce the inconsistency, inefficiency, waste and risk that can ripple through a global supply network.
–Most still don’t understand the concerns of their key stakeholders, particularly customers, and they’re not actively engaging them to find out. That means they’re missing out on knowledge that could improve their businesses and lead to new opportunities.
Here’s an illustration of the information gap problem. Many companies are trying to reduce their energy use and lower their carbon dioxide emissions–to reduce costs and improve efficiency, to meet growing government regulations and to address stakeholder concerns. To be able to do that, they need to know where and how they consume energy throughout their operations, in everything from data centers and office space to manufacturing centers and delivery to customers and the entire lifecycles of their products. Knowing all that, they then need to determine where they can make reductions that won’t hurt in terms of cost, quality and service. Yet in our survey, only 19% of respondents said they are collecting data on carbon dioxide emissions weekly or more often. Most are collecting it only quarterly. That may be enough to meet government or stakeholder demands for information, but it’s not nearly enough to produce systemic change that can reduce environmental impact. Early efforts suggest that collaboration is essential to addressing this gap.
Instead of going it alone, organizations that are leading the way are exchanging information with customers, industry groups and nongovernment organizations to expand their knowledge and benchmark against similar companies. They are joining with partners, suppliers and even competitors to exchange practices and ultimately create common standards for sustainability. Standards are a necessary part of any effective long-term corporate social responsibility strategy. Some of the key findings of the survey further illustrate the information gap and why it’s occurring. Of executives who responded to the survey, 87% said they are focusing on corporate social responsibility activities that will improve efficiency, and 69% said say they’re using CSR to help create new revenue opportunities. But only 30% are collecting data often enough (at least weekly) to make strategic decisions that can address inefficiencies across eight major categories–carbon dioxide, water, waste, energy, sustainable procurement, labor standards, production composition and product lifecycle. Another 24% are collecting this information monthly, and 32% no more than quarterly. A third of the respondents aren’t collecting any CSR information from their supply chain partners. Eight in 10 aren’t collecting supplier data for carbon dioxide and water, and six in 10 aren’t checking supplier data for labor standards. Almost two-thirds–65%–admit they still don’t understand their customers’ concerns about CSR issues, and 37% aren’t conducting any research on the matter.
The bright spot in these findings comes from companies that outperform their competitors in bottom-line results. Outperformers rank consistently higher in collecting every type of CSR information frequently or in real-time across all major green and sustainability categories, from carbon dioxide emissions and water conservation to ethical labor standards and sustainable procurement. They also rank higher in information collection from suppliers. Nearly twice as many of the outperformers said they understand their customers’ concerns about CSR well. They also are more active in collaborating with key stakeholders and twice as likely to rate the sharing of information among business partners and stakeholders as being of the highest importance in achieving their CSR objectives. That indicates a definite correlation between business success and effectively executing on strategic CSR goals.
To succeed in filling the data gap and incorporating CSR principles into your business strategies, you need to consider the following actions:
–Identify your information gaps and analysis needs. Is the CSR information you collect relevant and timely enough to base strategic decisions on? Are you getting the information you need from your business partners and suppliers? Do you understand your customers’ CSR concerns and those of your other key stakeholders?
–Align your objectives with those of your stakeholders and then prioritize. Stakeholders require a lot of information, but their information demands can’t be your only focus. Is your company collecting information that truly helps it meet its business objectives, and is it communicating those objectives to their stakeholders?
–Assess best practices and benchmarks. Have you identified best sustainability practices and benchmarks for your key CSR activities? Are you participating in industry or activity-focused coalitions that are developing preferred best practices and benchmarks? Are there frameworks or scorecards for measuring your activities against overall objectives?
The answers to these questions can help set and prioritize a course of action. A company that advances its CSR strategy through these actions will find itself better positioned to reap the business benefits of more efficient operations and of better balance with the diverse social and environmental ecosystems it is part of.
Eric Riddleberger is global leader for IBM’s business strategy consulting practice. Jeff Hitter is IBM’s leader for corporate social responsibility consulting. The survey discussed in this article can be found here <http://www.ibm.com/gbs/csrstudy> .
(July 2009) THAT NEARLY twenty years of anti-sweatshop activism has come to naught is suggested by the cost breakdown of a $38 University of Connecticut hoodie that appeared in the Hartford Courant a couple of years ago: the workers received a mere 18 cents, while the university received $2.24 in licensing fees. (Mexican factory: profit, 70 cents; overhead, $2.12; material, $5.50–distributor [Champion]: overhead $5.10; profit $1.75–Seller [UCONN Co-Op]: overhead, $14.49; profit, $4.50). The workers’ share could hardly have been lower when the movement began.
Given the worldwide financial crisis, it is a safe bet that fighting sweatshop abuses here and abroad will not be a key policy undertaking for Barack Obama and his team. But this does not rule out a wide-ranging set of initiatives that would significantly empower workers. Tweaking our foreign assistance priorities, revising “democracy promotion,” and undertaking diplomacy from a community organizer’s perspective—these changes in U.S. policy would at least begin an assault on global sweatshop practices. And they are especially important as an antidote to the solipsism of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), wherein corporate “self-regulation” teams are rebranded as “activists” by lazy and compliant media. The new administration needs to connect with real labor activists, in Asia and Central America especially, and allow them to speak for themselves.
But first we need to collect information on sweatshop practices abroad and make it available to activists, who often can’t collect it themselves. Twenty years ago, I worked in the small Jakarta office of the Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AFL-CIO). When my boss visited Jakarta, I described to him the radical inadequacy of the local minimum wage of 87 cents per day. By the Indonesian government’s admission, this provided only 68 percent of the “minimum physical needs” for a single adult. He suggested that I develop a project to monitor compliance with this inadequate minimum: were the workers even receiving 87 cents? USAID had recently made available funds for human rights grants; we applied and received something on the order of $20,000. The discovery of 44 percent noncompliance in 250 Jakarta-area workplaces was shocking and–to our great surprise and delight–avidly reported in the (mostly Suharto-controlled) newspapers. As a result of the publicity, workers began an unprecedented wave of wildcat strikes that resulted in much-improved compliance numbers.
The back-story is interesting. When the grant was discussed at a twice-monthly meeting where the Jakarta USAID Mission reported to U.S. Embassy staff, I was told that a buzz went around the room: “We’re helping who to do what?” Not surprisingly, AID officials received a similar message of disbelief from Nike’s top official in Indonesia after the strike wave and the attendant bad publicity. Did the local AID Mission pull back? It didn’t. In less than a year, I had approval for a grant of well over $600,000 for survey work that reached 172,000 workers; the number of strikes quadrupled, and the minimum wage rose steadily. But this momentum has not been sustained.
There is, of course, a lot of misinformation circulating, in addition to our common lack of information. Nearly all the academic literature on the subject claims that foreign investors pay better wages than local firms. How to explain, then, the fact that 85 percent of the 720 strikes in Vietnam last year were at foreign-investment factories? My talks with workers there in early 2008 confirmed my long-held suspicion that local firms were less abusive and less likely to cheat workers. Another example of misinformation is the work of Columbia University’s Jagdish Bhagwati, who, in 2000, induced 250 other economists to sign an open letter to college presidents, urging them not to give in to anti-sweatshop students’ demands because “the net result would be shifts in employment that will worsen the collective welfare of the very workers in poor countries who are supposed to be helped.” But the numbers from Indonesia tell a different story: when the wage was 87 cents a day, Nike had 20,000 contract laborers there; when the wage was $2.47—after five years of agitation—the footwear and apparel giant had more than 110,000 workers making products for export.
The lesson on the foreign-assistance front, then, is twofold: first, look for “empowering” projects to assist workers directly in local struggles and, second, use survey-research tools to build a database available to local legal aid groups and labor activists. What is most needed is information about dysfunctional governance, which has previously been unavailable to them.
WORKERS RIGHTS should be a fundamental principle undergirding both “democracy promotion” and our public diplomacy endeavors. The approach should be informed by the same caution that a community organizer uses to size up a neighborhood in distress, buffeted by multiple external and internal forces. It is surprising how little we know about how industrial relations play out in the world’s export-processing zones—even after twenty years of press reports and activists’ campaigns. A 2006 New York Times story out of China, for example, quoted a Communist Party report that asserted that there were 20,000 labor inspectors, 1.2 million audits, and over 8 million back-pay awards in 2005. That’s possible, but we really have no clue as to what is actually happening. (For comparison purposes, the United States has 750 inspectors for 130 million workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.)
Similarly, when a story about Asian workers being mistreated in Jordanian apparel shops appeared in 2006, the Times’s report quoted Yanal Beasha, Jordan’s trade representative in Washington, as saying that Jordanian inspectors monitor working conditions in factories and that the government enforces overtime laws and recently increased the minimum wage for citizens and guest workers. Several workers debunked the claim, but again, there is no reliable data on enforcement.
Obama said before twenty thousand people at Prague Castle, “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” These standards should apply to governments that oversee vast export-processing zones, as well as to dictators bent on nuclear extortion.
Addressing the rule of law as applied to the workplace ought to be a slam-dunk for the president and our recently re-energized State Department, even given the fact that such a worker-advocacy platform may discomfit countries such as China (our banker), Turkey (prone to nationalist tantrums), and Bangladesh (which has a host of stability concerns), just to name a few. For far too long, autocratic regimes have been getting conflicting advice from American policy makers. The boiler-plate nostrums involving multiparty democracy and clean government made little practical sense when China, pre-reform Indonesia, and Vietnam were experiencing growth rates in the double digit range. The off-the-charts venality of these states mocked the World Bank’s decade-long focus on fighting corruption. That the boiler plate wasn’t serious was signaled in many ways; now is the time to change the signals.
At an appropriate venue—such as a gathering of trade unionists and labor rights activists in Mexico or Thailand—Obama should outline the ways in which workers are grievously disadvantaged in the global economy. Activists across the globe would be thrilled to hear an American president calling into question such neoliberal tenets as the “flexible” workforce and the necessary “reform” of national labor codes—these two together have opened the door to a noxious insecurity of employment. Specifically, he could cite the World Bank’s “competitive index,” which ranks countries higher for ease of hiring and firing, reduced severance benefits, and other employer-friendly policies. Particularly egregious is the recent study funded and heavily influenced by the World Bank. Its report concludes that workers have to sacrifice even more than they have already in the name of economic growth. Organized as the Commission on Growth and Development, it made the astonishing discovery that the developing world’s workers are over protected. The report includes a discussion about how governments need to “mollify the influential minority of workers” in the formal, wage-paying sector. Hence the need for “special zones” with reduced protections—at best, somewhere in between the formal sector and “informal” destitution. The overall findings were praised in a Wall Street Journal article arguing that “there is room for countries to ape the Chinese model.” A 2007 Brookings Institution publication similarly prescribes “ease of hiring and firing” as a primary “condition for maximizing growth.” These are the policies that produce a worker’s eighteen-cent share of a $38 hoodie.
It is clear that a new architecture of rights must be erected, beginning with a no-nonsense survey of current practices. Every labor attaché or labor reporting officer at an American embassy should compile the following facts: Has the country signed International Labor Organization Convention 81 (Labor Inspection)? If so, when is the last time a report was sent to Geneva? How many labor inspectors are there? How many factory inspections were done last year? What is the number of violations found? How many prosecutions started? How many back pay awards were made? Similarly, on the environmental side, statistics need to be collected on factories visited, citations, and types of hazardous waste. And our attachés should also map out the bureaucratic chain of command, with names of responsible local officials and an account of who reports to whom. U.S.-based companies importing more that $50 million worth of goods should have to post these findings on their corporate Web sites—in both English and the local language—for every country in which they have more than three contract factories.
All the inspection/enforcement statistics should be folded into a matrix maintained by a nongovernmental organization working under a several-year grant from the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor. Alongside the raw numbers, wiki-style narratives should be included on such issues as freedom for NGOs operating in the labor sector, labor history, recent strikes, opinions on the adequacy of the minimum wage, academic papers on all these issues, and contact information for unions and activist groups. Such a program would make possible a global dialogue about key issues. For example, a recent law change regarding severance pay in Colombia addresses the most recent wage-cheating tactic employed by multinationals (declaring bankruptcy and skipping out on substantial payments due to workers); the Dominican Republic has trained lawyers to act as labor standards inspectors but as mediators not in the familiar command-and-control mode. We need to know how this is working out. Again, Bulgaria appears to be quite serious about labor inspection and tracking worker complaints to authorities—we should pay attention to such initiatives.
OBAMA COULD make a very significant contribution to an urgent global problem for which the Bush administration spent upward of $500 million without much effect—“Trafficking in Persons.” The “action” up to now consisted mainly of getting legislatures around the world to pass laws on trafficking; it’s a good bet that the number of lawyers and consultants employed dwarfs the number of organized crime leaders captured. This fact did not restrain the Bush team’s fiery rhetorical pronouncements: the United States and its allies would “stop at nothing to end the debasement of our fellow men and women… the defeat of human trafficking is the great moral calling of our time.” Forced prostitution is the most well-known form of trafficking, but factory workers are also trafficked—and then sweated in legal or illegal shops. It is time to forgo the rhetoric and think about practical efforts to stop trafficking, with reliable benchmarks on our progress.
Officials might start by going after the low-hanging fruit, borrowing from the concept of “low obligational ante” developed by Abram and Antonia Chayes in their writings about getting respect for international agreements across a wide spectrum of countries. For over ten years, it has been common knowledge that foreign workers are being shipped across national boundaries to do factory work, often making products for export. Only last year, an award-winning television exposé interviewed Bangladeshi and Vietnamese workers producing Nike T-shirts in Malaysia in familiar, appalling conditions exacerbated by ruthless labor contractors. It would be simple for the State Department to organize a briefing on “trafficking” for all corporations that know or suspect that similarly vulnerable workers may be producing products anywhere along their supply chains. Those businesses whose executives do not attend—but are reliably implicated—should go to the top of the “watch list.”
The benefits of such a strategy are threefold: Local governments in Asia and elsewhere would see U.S. embassy officials visiting cheated and abused workers; local NGOs would see an administration unafraid to antagonize U.S. firms, and, most important, cheated workers might win compensation, thereby emboldening other workers.
Eventually, such a no-nonsense strategy would undermine the booming Corporate Social Responsibility industry. The shallowness and deceit of the CSR farce may be clearly observed in press reports. The Financial Times, for example, ran a headline, “Nike to promote workers’ rights” in mid-2007, and a news report on Nike in the same paper the very next day described “a push to promote labour rights, including the freedom to form and join trade unions.” This at a time when Nike itself reported fourteen strikes involving tens of thousands of workers. In reality, there is no collective bargaining going on at any shoe or apparel factories in the developing world. A Chinese group released a report in 2007 that underscored this point. It was an assessment of union rights in a factory producing for Reebok where–with much fanfare in 2002–Reebok had persuaded a contractor (the Shun Da Sporting Good Corporation in Fuzhou) to allow a secret-ballot election for union representatives: “The results of the  investigation were extremely disappointing. Working conditions have deteriorated noticeably, and the trade union is doing more or less nothing to further workers’ interests. Interviews with workers uncovered widespread dissatisfaction and distrust towards the current union” (China Labor News Translations).
For weary observers of corporate-dominated globalization, it will come as little surprise that the coordinator of the World Bank’s aforementioned growth commission is economist Michael Spence. Until recently, Spence was the dean of Stanford’s business school–holding a chair endowed by and named after Nike CEO Phil Knight. A decade ago, while a member of Nike’s board of directors, Nobel-laureate Spence told a group of business school students in Singapore that global firms “make nothing” and that corporations must be “ruthless and not tell people you can do it in-house when out-sourcing would do a better job.”
This is the real CSR at work, and it goes a long way toward explaining the failure, so far, of anti-sweatshop activism.
Team Sweat member, Jeff Ballinger, just passed along the report, WHEN NIKE MEANS STRIKE. The report was published on July 2, 2009 by the Danish Consumer Council. Some of the highlights from the report include:
* 20,000 factory workers at a major Nike contractor in Vietnam went on strike in March 2008 for liveable wages.
* 100 group leaders were fired.
* Zero workers were spoken to by Nike, which claims no workers were fired.
* Six months of intense police surveillance, monitoring and harassment followed.
* Zero free trade unions: despite Nike’s code of conduct promising to protect workers’ rights, the factory unions in Vietnam are still state-run.
* €1 a week extra is the bonus for working with hazardous shoe glue, reveals the Danish Consumer Council in secret conversations with Nike factory workers.
JAKARTA, Jun 22, 2009 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) - Nike Inc has placed orders for an additional supply of footwear worth US$45 million from Indonesia this year, an official said.
Earlier Nike announced plan to cut 10 per cent of its shoe order for delivery in March to July but the cut would not include shipments from Indonesia.
Nike already planned to import 55 million pairs of shoes worth US$1.3 billion from Indonesia this year, Budi Irmawan, the director general of multifarious industries said
Irmawan said Nike placed the orders with a number of local shoe makers for a total of 3 million pairs of shoes this year, adding the additional orders came after it closed its factories in China, Vietnam and Thailand.
This year Nike wants an additional supply of 250,000 pairs a month or 3 million pairs a year, to be supplied by PT Nikomas Gemilang, PT Cing Luh Indonesia, PT Panarub Industry and PT Hardaya Aneka Shoes Industry, he added.
Original Story posted at www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2381920/.
Check out this story published last week by “News of the World” (UK) about Indonesian sweatshop workers making the English National Team kits. Umbro is owned by Nike, Inc. I am hoping to visit with workers from PT Tuntex (mentioned in the article) during my visit to Indonesia in July.
Peace, Jim Keady
By Simon Parry in Indonesia & Dominic Herbert, 14/06/2009
THE World Cup shirts worn by England’s multi-million pound soccer stars and tens of thousands of fans are made by slumdog workers paid just £2 A DAY in a secret sweat-shop in Indonesia.
A News of the World investigation has traced the Football Association’s newly-designed official Three Lions tops back to a slave labour factory that makers Umbro-owned by Nike- don’t want YOU to know about.
Behind barbed wire fences patrolled by guards, more than 2,000 dirt-poor teenage girls and young mums toil for a sickening 16p AN HOUR, 12 hours a day, making the trendy shirts the FA is selling for £49 A TIME.
One told us: “We all work maximum overtime because the basic salary isn’t enough to live on and keep our families. The work is very hard and the pay is not good but jobs are hard to get.”
The machinists are watched constantly by patrolling supervisors ordered to fire anyone caught chatting or taking mobile phone pictures of their appalling conditions.