THE SOUL-LESS SPORTS SHOE INDUSTRY:
Labor Campaign Spotlights Nike's Business Practicesfrom the Internet
In September, representatives of 57 organizations from around the world met in Germany to discuss codes of conduct, the role and responsibilities of transnational corporations, and strategies and campaigns to protect workers' rights worldwide. A prime topic of discussion was campaigns in support of workers in the sports shoe industry. In June, the National Organization of Wornen (NOW) passed a resolution condemning the global sweatshop; Nike was the only company mentioned by name.
Nike CEO Phil Knight put in an appearance at the White House rose garden for a photo opportunity with Kathie Lee Gifford and President Clinton. Nike w ill be part of a business coalition to develop standards for a "no sweat" clothing label certifying that garments bearing the label were made under fair and legal labor conditions. Doubts about the effectiveness of the proposed label increased when Clinton and Labor Secretary Reich included Nike, a company which refuses to clean up its own act, on a commission to draw up standards for the industry.
As another part of its public relations blitz, Nike hurriedly joined Business for Social Responsibility, after spurning the group's offers of membership for two years.
Meanwhile, Nike continues to refuse dialogue with its critics. The Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR) and the other member organizations of the Working Group on Nike intend to convince Nike that it has a problem which cannot be solved by its P.R. department. This month, leafleting actions and demonstrations took place at Nike outlets in cities in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe. Most were on September 14, two days before the Nike annual stockholders meeting voted down a shareholder resolution that the company should permit truly independent monitoring of its factories.
Also in September, a delegation to Indonesia met with nongovernmental activists as well as government officials. Delegates included representatives from the Working Group, the AFL-CIO and other concerned organizations. They learned firsthand from workers about pay and conditions in Nike shoe factories and they deepened their understanding of the context of repression faced bit union activists. [According to Milt Moskowitz, a journalist and author who writes a business social responsibility column, Nike's Indonesian factories are run by Taiwanese, South Korean and Indonesian subcontractors. They manufacture 70 million pairs of Nikes a year, employing young women earning $2.23 a year-36 cents less than Indonesia's minimum wage. The subcontractors were able to secure an exemption from the minimum wage requirement. To purchase a pair of the shoes she makes, A Nike worker would have to devote every penny from two to three months of her paychecks.]
Future leafleting actions at Nike outlets are planned for November 16 and December 14-both Saturdays. If interested in participating, or to volunteer in some capacity, contact CLR at email@example.com or call (541) 3445410. See also the web site at: http://www.compugraph.com/clr.
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This story was published on Friday, November 8, 1996.