NIKE OWES WORKERS
By Chris Zois
Roosevelt University Torch
April 19, 2010
Roosevelt students protested outside of Nike Town, a retail Nike store, on April 14 as part of United Students against Sweatshops “Just Pay It” campaign.
After the protest two Honduras garment workers, who have worked at Nike factories, spoke in Fainman Lounge later that day.
The protest was just one of the events the USAS has set up in order to get equal working conditions for Nike factory workers.
The event centered around the closing of two Honduras factories in early 2009. The workers are still owed back wages and legally mandated severance pay of $2.2 million.
In a press release from the university about the event it is reported that “Nike spent $3.4 Billion Dollars on endorsements in 2008. That means the money owed to workers in Honduras is less than .1[percent] of Nike’s annual endorsement commitments.”
Along with Roosevelt students, the protest also had students from DePaul University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.
Brian Brown, senior, said this event came together after they had met with members of the USAS.
“We had been organizing here [at Roosevelt] but it wasn’t until we talked to a member of the USAS that we started to look at the broader campaign as well,” Brown said.
Two Honduras garment workers, Gina Cano and Lowlee Urquia, held a discussion with students, discussing their experience for working for Nike factories following the protest.
Rod Palmquist, a member of USAS, said he, other members of USAS, Cano and Urquia are currently on a tour giving lectures to schools associated the “Just Pay It” campaign.
“We are going around to universities that are involved with our cause,” Palmquist said. “We want to show people that the working conditions need to be fair and the actions of Nike affect more than just the workers.”
According to the press release about the event, “The two factories, Hugger de Honduras and Vision Tex were shut down without notice in 2009. The Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) released a report exposing Nike’s hypocrisy in addressing the issue.”
Neither Cano nor Uquia speak English so their responses were translated for the audience.
Uquia said their pay was docked for health care and other amenities; however, he never received such benefits.
Both women said they have fellow co-workers who have passed away because they did not receive proper medical treatment.
Uquia said the factories’ closing has affected more than just the workers.
“These closings have affected our families and other factory workers families,” Cano said. “We got 26.5 percent of our severance but that is still not enough.”
Uquia said she had to take her children out of school because she could not afford to keep them there.
Palmquist said that these tours are geared to educate universities on the harsh conditions of the factories.
Palmquist said the University of Wisconsin-Madison has canceled its contract with Nike because of the factory’s working conditions.
The university is currently considering being affiliated with the WRC.
Brown said the university has talked to members of the WRC and Barnes & Noble in hopes of establishing a partnership.