Nike's Exploited Workers
by Medea Benjamin
During the 1970s, most Nike shoes were made in South Korea and
Taiwan. When workers there gained new freedom to organize and
wages began to rise, Nike looked for "greener pastures."
It found Indonesia, where it started producing shoes in 1986.
Indonesia has a repressive regime that outlaws independent unions
and sets the minimum wage at rock bottom- below the subsistence
level for one person. In 1996, the entry level wage was a miserable
$2.20 a day. A livable wage in Indonesia is about $4.25 a day.
Compare this with the pay of Nike's executives and celebrity promoters.
CEO Philip Knight is worth over $5 billion. Michael Jordan gets
$20 million a year to promote Nike sneakers. Jordan's compensation
alone would be enough to raise Nike's Indonesian workforce out
of poverty. Despite Indonesia's repressive government, workers
in the shoe industry have been rebelling against low pay, forced
overtime, abusive treatment by factory managers and lack of health
and safety standards. When the foreign press publicized these
abuses, Nike denied responsibility. It insisted that Nike did
not own the factories, it contracted the work to independent sub-contractors.
Yet with mounting criticism, Nike relented and in 1992 came up
with a Code of Conduct that set standards for its contractors.
But abuses continued; workers demanding better conditions were
dismissed and independent organizing was still prohibited.
Labor, religious and consumer groups have increased their anti-Nike
organizing. They demand that Nike agree to independent monitoring
of their factories by local human rights groups, that the company
settle claims by workers who were unfairly dismissed that independent
organizing be allowed in Nike factories, and that wages and working
conditions be improved.
[For information on the Nike campaign call Global Exchange at
exerpted from the book
CORPORATIONS ARE GOING TO GET YOUR MAMA
edited by Kevin Danaher
Common Courage Press
Monroe, Maine 04951
phone - 207-525-0900
fax - 207-525-3068
Corporations & the Third World