Nike: Just don't do it

By Nicholas Rose
Roncalli Central High
Port Saunders, Newfoundland

Nike is one of the world's most successful marketing companies. Nike doesn't sell shoes; it sells attitude.

But many people don't know that Nike footwear is manufactured by off-shore contractors who employ 500,000 workers in countries such as Indonesia, China and Vietnam. Ninety percent of these workers are women. The footwear and apparel giant is on the defense, and Nike campaigners are hoping to win important gains on core demands.

There are many people who are currently opposing Nike. Among these people are the concerned consumers in the international community who are fighting for better workers' rights. They are battling for are a living wage for Nike workers, fair working conditions and the right to organize collectively. It has been reported that several Nike workers have been fired for fighting for better working conditions and higher salaries.

At a press conference on May 12th, 1997, Nike CEO Phil Knight announced the changes that the company was supposed to make. The changes included boosting the minimum age for workers in shoe production to age 18 and to age 16 for those working in light manufacturing. Also, foreign Nike factories would be changed to meet United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and that the factories would be monitored by factory supervisors.

The pay for workers in Nike factories is also quite low. As one worker in Indonesia said, "If I don't work overtime, I can't survive." Mr. Baltazar works an average of 40 overtime hours a week and he stated that he would definitely not be able to survive if he did not work these hours. Indonesia workers make $2.46 a day. This is approximately $811 a year.

Despite Nike's claim that conditions for its production workers are improving, independent reports indicate that promised improvements have not reached the young women who labor long hours for much less than a living wage.

Since workers' voices are silenced by oppressive governments, it is up to concerned consumers all over the world to make a change for Nike's workers.


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