Final Thoughts on Nike

May 4, 2009

Sweatshops are dangerous working factories where workers are reimbursed scantly for their difficult labor. Workers receive few rights and they rarely have options to change their situations. Sweatshops are found in Export Processing Zones (EPZ) within third world countries. The typical sweatshop worker is a young woman without any opportunity for education and who is prone to sexual abuse from her employer.

Nike

Nike The first picture captures the look of a typical Nike sweatshop worker. An unhappy woman is forced to stay at her work station doing the tedious, paternalistic work of assembling Nike product. The second picture is a “comic” which points out a harsh and sad truth about female workers in sweatshops. Without any chance of an education, women are forced to work at a young age in an attempt to support their families. There is no opportunity to change their current state and must continue working in these conditions as long as they can.

Along with gender, race and social class are prominent when discussing sweatshops. Sweatshops can be found in underdeveloped parts of the world where there are large numbers of desperate workers. For example, Nike, the world’s largest sneaker and sportswear maker, has “some 180 manufacturers and about 210,000 employees” in China.

This video attempts to hit at the heart of its viewers. There are facts concerning sweatshop labor and Nike that are alarming to most people. Accompanied by the images and depressing music, this public service announcement succeeds in making its viewers think about social justice and their consumption of Nike products.

Nike

This image illustrates the disparity between the cost of making a Nike shoe and the price the shoe is sold to consumers. Obviously there is an enormous gap and many activists argue that workers should receive large pay raises and Nike would still turn a profit on each sold shoe.

Although Nike is not the only company guilty of gross corporate practices, it is the company that was targeted heaviest concerning corporate responsibility. The Nike brand is often synonymous with slave work, low wages and forced overtime. Along with sweat labor, activists and protestors question why Nike advertisements in the U.S. empower women while Nike engages in corporate practices which disempowered women. Initially, Nike responded to public criticism by saying, “Tell it to the United Nations.” However, after realizing this was not a lucrative position to take, Nike has made huge attempts to repair the company’s image. Nike introduced a radical six point plan in 1998 to repair the company’s corporate practices. Today, Nike works extremely hard to ensure their corporate practices are acceptable. Their Global Corporate Responsibility Strategy, which has several goals including bringing a systematic change for workers in the footwear, apparel and equipment industries, is accessible on their web site.

ESPN covered a story about Jim Keady, an assistant soccer coach with St. John’s University, and his refusal to wear Nike product. Keady stood up against Nike after the company and St John’s agreed to a 3.5 million dollar sponsorship deal. As a result of the deal all teams, players, and coaches of the St. John’s University Red Storm must wear Nike product. Keady believed that supporting a company that used sweatshop labor opposed his catholic identity concerning social justice. Keady was given an ultimatum, “Wear Nike or resign.” After deciding to resign, Keady had made ending sweatshop labor his mission in life. Keady has made multiple trips to Indonesia where he lived the life of a person in a Nike sweatshop. “I lived in a 9×9 box, sleeping on a reed mat on a cement floor for 30 days,” said Keady, “I lost 25lbs trying live like a Nike factory worker.” He is currently producing and directing a feature documentary called SWEAT set to release this year.

This ABC report details the anti-Nike campaign that took play during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Along with Jim Keady, many activists gathered to give a press conference prior to the 2000 Olympic Games. The members spoke of Nike’s minor reforms that had been made and declared many social problems had still not been resolved. Activists often use large sporting forums to speak of the corrupt corporate practices employed by Nike in an attempt to speak to a larger audience. Also, athletes and fans of sporting events are the audience that they feel can hold Nike to a standard and force them to change their corporate practices.

Although one of the many companies that have used sweat labor, Nike has been the target company of criticism about labor conditions in low-wage countries. In the 1990s, when Nike was being pummeled with criticism, the company responded with panic and denial. Recently, however, Nike has developed a program to reduce the labor issues in the 900-odd factories that produce their sneakers. They have inspectors that grade labor standards and also allow random factory inspections. Historically, human rights groups have protested and demonstrated publicly against Nike. However, now these groups speak with the company directly.

There are many ways to get involved in order to continue and to motivate Nike to improve their corporate practices. Numerous campaigns, including Clean Clothes Campaign and United States Against Sweatshops, motivate people to change their consumption practices and hold companies accountable for their actions.

Strategies for Social Justice

May 4, 2009

This is where I struggle the most. I realize that sweatshops are bad and companies should not use sweatshop labor. I want to force companies, like Nike, to continue to improve their corporate practices. But what can I do? I am only one person. Can I really make a difference?

The United Students Against Sweatshops is a student organization formed in 1997 which has chapters in colleges and universities across the nation. It is viewed as the largest anti-sweatshop community group in the United States. This group focuses on domestic as well as international sweatshops and has built coalitions of students that focus on a variety of campaigns. This group has attempted to leverage the business power of their schools to further their campaigns. The USAS often bring campaigns to their local universities in attempt to alter the schools licensing agreements with clothing brands. These clothing brands will be hurt financially because of the absence of a licensing deal which will motivate them to change their corporate practices.

One such campaign is “Rein in Russell.” Russell, a sporting apparel company who is viewed as a serial abuser of workers’ rights, has had their licensing contracts terminated by many major universities and colleges around the nation. The latest school, Boston College, has terminated their contract following the line of schools that have either terminated their contracts, not renewed their licensing agreements, or pledging not to enter into future business relations with the company.

Joining such an organization is a great way to get involved. There are also other campaigns and organizations that are easily accessible online to get involved. If joining a campaign or organization is not something you are able to do, then there is an easy way to get involved that is not a large time commitment.

Stay in the know. Read what companies are doing to improve corporate practices and figure out which companies are worth supporting and which are worth boycotting. Then, speak with your wallet. Choose to buy and consume products that are made by companies you consider to be assisting with social justice. Educate yourself and spread the word.

Resource Guide

April 3, 2009

This website is important because it explains the history of Nike. The company has grown tremendously since the 1950s, and this site details the expansion. Also, this site was made by Nike so it is a firsthand account. http://www.nikebiz.com/company_overview/history/1950s.html

Nike provides a report on their website that explains their approach concerning corporate responsibility. This 162 page report can be seen as a response to the criticism Nike has received for poor corporate practice over the past decades. Nike claims, “Corporate responsibility must evolve from being seen as an unwanted cost to being recognized as an intrinsic part of a healthy business model.” Here is that report http://www.nikebiz.com/responsibility/documents/Nike_FY05_06_CR_Report_C.pdf.

This article describes the role of women in Nike sweatshops. It investigates sweatshops workers’ struggles and motivates an anti-sweatshop movement. http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/modern/Women-in-Slavery-Sweatshops.html

The article on this website investigates why Nike is making a conscious effort to eliminate sweatshop labor. Is it because they truly want to raise global labor standards or is it motivated by profits? http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/29904/nike_and_sweatshops.html?cat=3

This website is one of the many that contains anti Nike campaigns. Global Exchange, the creator of this site and campaign, is also producing an independent film called “Sweat” that is set to be released in 2009. http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/sweatshops/nike/

This video provides a great summary of Nike and their use of sweat labor. It really makes you think! http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/sweatshops/nike/

This article explains that many companies have not improved working conditions in their manufacturing factories. Instead, they are just better at concealing the problem. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_48/b4011001.htm

This website is the home of the United Students Against Sweatshops. A description of their campaign, news, and ways to get involved can be found on their website. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_48/b4011001.htm

This video takes a look at sweatshops in Asia. The pictures are extremely eye opening and this video is well put together with the use of music and language. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MljpjyQ-E-M

This article explains how global companies like Disney, Gap and Nike have made huge efforts to monitor working conditions at their factories. However, despite their best efforts, real change is not easy. http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/03/news/international/pluggedin_fortune/

This website, the home of Green America, provides a great question and answer section which describes the use of sweatshops. It explains what they are, why companies use them, and also what people can do to encourage change. http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/sweatshops/whattoknow.cfm

This article, by Thomas DiLorenzo, explains why sweatshops actually help the poor. It is extremely interesting to read an opposing, or positive, view concerning sweatshops. http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo113.html

This 32 page document, provided by Co-op America, is a guide to ending sweatshops. It provides five ways to take action in order to end sweatshop labor including supporting a fair supply chain and demanding responsibility. http://www.greenamericatoday.org/PDF/EndingSweatshops.pdf

This article explains that behind many clothing and fashion labels, there was sweat labor used in production. This article targets many companies, Gap and Nike in particular, and explains the facts to readers. http://voice.paly.net/view_story.php?id=2236

This news story, provided by The Phoenix, explains that in 2005, there are still many horrible corporate practiced by Nike. It explains that Nike has made many strides, but still has a lot of room for improvement. http://media.www.loyolaphoenix.com/media/storage/paper673/news/2005/11/02/News/Nike-Sweatshops.Scrutinized-1042192.shtml

Anti-Nike Images

March 12, 2009

It is impossible to go a day without seeing them. They can be found on clothing, uniforms and shoes, on the television and the computer, and on billboards. What are they? They are Nike “swooshes.” This easily recognized brand logo was designed in 1971, and bought by current Nike chairman Phil Knight for 35 dollars. It has been crucial in the growth and popularity of Nike ever since. Although many people have ignored the criticisms targeted at Nike and their corporate practices by continuing to purchase and wear Nike product, many people have protested and written criticisms against the corporate giant.

There are plenty of anti-Nike websites that have provided an outlet for stories and pictures protesting the corporate practices Nike has used in the past and present. Facts and figures are common on these websites as well as creative animations. The original “swoosh” and a variety of these criticizing images can be found below.

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Most of these images and animations are pretty self explanatory. They all view Nike in a negative light and are attempting to motivate change. Critics’ voices have been heard, and Nike has adjusted their corporate policies in order to fix the problems with sweat labor. However, images like these are still common and will continue to be used because critics still feel Nike has room to improve.

just copy and paste this! the whole thing

http://skylight.wsu.edu/s/f4f224b0-1fdf-403e-9cc6-04a2abf222eb.srv

Nike: Repairing the “Swoosh”

March 2, 2009

An article in Harpers Magazine in 1992 was the catalyst for a wave of public criticism targeted at Nike and their corporate practices. This article compared Michael Jordan to a young Indonesian girl named Sadisah. Sadisah worked in an industrial factory that was contracted to manufacture Nike shoes. The article compared Sadisah’s salary and working conditions to those of Jordan’s. The next few years not only brought the darkest days in Nike’s history, but also brought about a new era in brand management. Although Nike was not the only company guilty of gross corporate practices, it was the company that was targeted heaviest concerning corporate responsibility.

The 1990s were filled with critical reports in magazines, protestors outside Nike stores and anti-Nike web sites. College students protested against Nike and forced their athletic departments to dissolve their profitable sponsorship contracts with the shoe company. The Nike brand was now synonymous with slave work, low wages and forced overtime. Protestors also questioned why Nike advertisements in the U.S. empowered women while Nike engaged in corporate practices which disempowered women.

Nike initially responded to public criticism in the worst way they possibly could. When questioned about underage workers in 1997, Nike Founder Phil Knight responded, “Tell it to the United Nations.” From this point on, Knight and Nike made huge attempts to repair the company’s image.

Knight introduced a radical six point plan in 1998 to repair the company’s corporate practices. Nike would monitor the factories, raise minimum age requirements and improve overall working conditions. Also, Nike set up a corporate social responsibility department and began working with the company’s most passionate critics.

Today, Nike works extremely hard to ensure their corporate practices are kosher. Their Global Corporate Responsibility Strategy, which has several goals including bringing a systematic change for workers in the footwear, apparel and equipment industries, is accessible on their web site. Nike is no longer socially recognized as a company with unacceptable corporate practices.


just copy and paste this! the whole thing

http://skylight.wsu.edu/s/f4f224b0-1fdf-403e-9cc6-04a2abf222eb.srv

Nike: “Don’t Sweat It!”

February 12, 2009

From the toys we play with to the furniture we relax on, sweatshops are commonly used to produce a variety of products. Included in the list is sporting apparel. A sweatshop is a dangerous working factory where workers are reimbursed scantly for their difficult labor. They have few rights and there is nothing that can change their situation. Factories can be extremely hot, contain hazardous materials, and managed by abusive employers. Long hours are very common, and overtime, child labor, and minimum wage laws are often times ignored. Sweatshops are found in Export Processing Zones (EPZ) within third world countries.

The typical sweatshop worker is a young woman without any opportunity for education. She works long hours in an attempt to support her family. Sexual abuse from factory operators is very common. Sweatshop operators often fire pregnant women in order to avoid filing maternity leave. Often times, women are forced to take birth control or to abort their pregnancies. Obviously, gender plays a large part of the problem of sweatshops.

Along with gender, race and social class are prominent when discussing sweatshops. Sweatshops can be found in underdeveloped parts of the world where there are large numbers of desperate workers. The poorest of countries contain the most desperate and exploitable work force. Therefore, terrible labor practices are most common in third world countries. The majority of the work forces in these factories are not Caucasian. For example, Nike, the world’s largest sneaker and sportswear maker, has “some 180 manufacturers and about 210,000 employees” in China. Along with gender, race and social class are interconnected when discussing sweatshops.

Despite the obvious problem sweatshops bring, there are those who believe they are vital to American consumerism. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, defends the existence of sweatshops. He argues that sweatshops offer higher wages and the working conditions are better in comparison to previous jobs of farm labor. Also, sweatshops are the first step in the process of technological and economic development that these underdeveloped countries so badly need.

Although one of the many companies that have used sweat labor, Nike has been the target company of criticism about labor conditions in low-wage countries. In the 1990s, when Nike was being pummeled with criticism, the company responded with panic and denial. Recently, however, Nike has developed a program to reduce the labor issues in the 900-odd factories that produce their sneakers. They have inspectors that grade labor standards and also allow random factory inspections. Historically, human rights groups have protested and demonstrated publicly against Nike. However, now these groups speak with the company directly.

I understand that most people would disagree with the working conditions in these sweatshops. Learning about sweatshops made me realize how fortunate I am in this complex, unequal world. I also understand consumption of these sweatshop products is a social norm in America. My closet is filled with these products, not to mention I am currently wearing a pair of Nike shoes. It is a difficult task to eliminate sweatshop-like labor and create an economy where unsavory working conditions cease to exist. However, I think educating others, along with smart product purchasing will lead to a world without sweatshops.


just copy and paste this! the whole thing

http://skylight.wsu.edu/s/f4f224b0-1fdf-403e-9cc6-04a2abf222eb.srv

Unconscious Consumption

January 21, 2009

                After recording all that I consumed in a week, it became obvious that I did not know where anything I consumed came from. Nor do I know how it was distributed to me, or where it went when I was done with it. These facts were nowhere to be found! I have a very paternalistic eating schedule.  I wake up, eat cheerios and milk, and then eat a premade lunch and dinner at my fraternity house. The only things I even see with a label are the cheerios and the fat free milk. What about all the other stuff I eat? I not only do not know where my food comes from or where my waste goes, but I have no idea what I am putting in my body (which is a scary thought). However, I do feel I eat considerably healthier than many students who live at McDonalds and Jack in the Box, injecting fatty foods and sugary drinks.

                After watching The Story of Stuff I started thinking about not only what food Americans consume, but what we use and discard regularly. Firstly, I realized that I make little effort to recycle. I began to wonder how many other students were as careless in their rubbish removing practices as I am. No one in my house recycles, and I imagine my house is an accurate sample of Washington State’s population. Another idea I began to think about after watching The Story of Stuff is how regularly Americans replace perfectly good electronic equipment. Just look at IPods! Whether it’s the IPod Shuffle, IPod Nano, IPod Touch, and so forth, Mac seems to be coming out with a new IPod every month. Classic IPods are rarely seen, and portable CD players seem to only be found in antique shops. It is amazing how unconsciously Americans replace televisions, computers, cell phones , and other completely useful, yet slightly older, electronic equipment.

                I realize now that Americans must change how we consume “stuff.” Awareness is the only way people will grasp the significance of their destructive ways and motivate change.