Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, became the name of multinational shoe
giant with CEO Phil Knight. Unfortunately, the company's motto of "Just Do It" has affected their business practices,
right up to using sweatshop labor in Indonesia and Vietnam. Here's some FAQ about labor and Nike's sweatshops [
CBS News 48 Hours reports the following:
- Nike workers in Viet Nam earned an average of 20 cents per hour
- 15 women workers were hit on the head by their supervisor
- 45 women were made to kneel on the ground for 25 minutes with their hands
in the air
- and a Korean supervisor fled the country after accusations that he sexually
molested female workers.
When CBS News approach Nike's representative at Nike Vietnam's headquarter,
the man simply covered the camera with his palm and said 'I have things to do'.
In America, Nike's response has not been much better. In front of several
hundred shareholders, after announcing record earnings and a stock split, Nike's president and CEO, Phil Knight minimized
the problems in Vietnam as simply an incident in which a single worker was hit on the arm by a Korean supervisor. Roberta
Baskin of CBS News said, "It turns out Nike has a great deal to learn about what goes on inside these factories."
- Workers at VN Nike shoe manufacturing plants make on 20 cents an hour or
$1.60 per day. The workers told Vietnam Labor Watch that the cost of three meals per day in Cu Chi is about $2. Many of them
skipped meals or receive extra financial assistance from their families. During the first three months of employment, all
workers received $37 per month which is below the minimum wage of $45 per month in Vietnam.
- Nike also claims that the workers are paid a lower wage because Vietnamese
law allows for a training wage less than the minimum wage. Viet Nam's legal code, however, specifies that the training wage
can be paid only for a "trial-period" of 6 days, (under Article 32 of the Labor Code of June 23 1994 and Article 5 (2)
of Decree 198-CP of Dec 31, 1994).
- So Nike is in Triple violation of Vietnam Law, violating the provisions
regarding minimum wage, Article 3 of Decree 197-CP of December 31, 1994, Section II. (1.) of Circular 11/LDTBXH-TT of May
03 1996, as well as provisions regarding labor contracts, Article 28 of the Labor Code and Article 5 (4.) of Decree 198-CP
in addition to the above-cited provisions relating to the "trial period"
- 15 Vietnamese women told CBS News that they were hit over the head by their
supervisor for poor sewing. 2 were sent to the hospital afterward.
- 45 women were forced by their supervisors to kneel down with their hands
up in the air for 25 minutes.
- Nike claims that it disciplined these supervisors immediately. But at the
shareholder meeting on Sept 16, 1996, Nike CEO Phil Knight minimized the first incident, stating incorrectly that only one
worker was struck -- on the arm
- On Nov. 26, 1996, 100 workers at the Pouchen factory, a Nike site in
Dong Nai, were forced to stand in the sun for half an hour for spilling a tray of fruit on an altar with which three Taiwanese
supervisors were using. One employee (Nguyen Minh Tri) walked out after 18 minutes, and was then formally fired. Mr. Nguyen
Minh Tri was reinstated after intervention by local labor federation officials. Mr. Tri, however, has declined to work for
- On International Day, March 8, 1997, 56 women at the Nike factory, Pouchen
were forced to run around the factory grounds. 12 of them fainted and were taken to the hospital by their friends. This was
particularly painful to the Vietnamese because it occurred on International Womens Day, an important holiday when Vietnam
- A Nike plant supervisor fled Vietnam after he was accused of sexually molesting
several women workers.
- Nike claims that the supervisor was fired and sent back to Korea -- i.e.,
but at the shareholder meeting on Sept 16, 1996, Nike CEO Phil Knight further insulted these two women, by claiming that the
supervisor was just trying to wake them up and must have touched the wrong places. Nike also did not try to have the supervisor
stay in Vietnam to face criminal charges. The governement of Vietnam later instigated extradition procedures against the supervisor.
- Women workers have complained to Vietnam Labor Watch about frequent sexual
harassment from foreign supervisors. Even in broad daylight, in front of other workers, these supervisors try to touch, rub
or grab their buttocks or chests. One supervisor told a female factory worker that it is a common custom for men in his country
to greet women they like by grabbing their behinds. .
- Women workers told CBS News that they are forced to work overtime to meet
a daily quota which is set unrealisticly high. Most workers at VN Nike plants are forced to work 600+ hours of overtime per
year -- well above the VN legal limit of 200 hours per year. If they do not accept the forced overtime, they will get a warning
and after three warnings they will get fired.
- Based on our analysis of paystubs, Nike factory workers are working 26 to
27 days per month plus 40 to 65 hours of overtime. We found months when workers were forced to work over 100 hours of overtime
per month. We recognize that Vietnam is a poor country but there must be a level of corporate decency for a US corporation
operating in Vietnam.
- Article 69 of VN Labor Law stipulates that "The labor user and the laborer
may agree to work overtime, but not for more than four hours a day, 200 hours a year". Forced overtime at Nike factories in
Vietnam is a clear violation of this Article.
Inhumane Working Conditions
- Workers cannot go to the bathroom more than once per 8-hour shift and they
cannot drink water more than twice per shift.
- It is a common occurrence for workers to faint from exhaustion, heat, fumes
and poor nutrition during their shifts.
- Health care is inadequate. At the Sam Yang factory, with 6000 employees,
one doctor works only two hours a day but the factory operates 20 hours a day. Night shift employees do not have any on-site
medical emergency services.
Nike is in control of its subcontractors
- Nike dictates the price per shoe and even the cost of operation to its subcontractors
forcing them to set high quotas for their workers and to pay low wages. A British NGO estimates that the labor cost involved
in making one pair of Nike shoes is only $3, yet this may sell for $100 in the US (Christian Aid, 1995). Nike can afford to
give some of this profit margin back to its factory workers.
Nike can do better
- Other American companies do employ better labor practices than Nike. Coca
Cola does not use a subcontractor. The company is not in Vietnam for cheap labor, but concentrates on quality and productivity.
Workers at Coca-Cola in Viet Nam got a wage of $80 a month and fringe benefits such as English lessons and sales training.
Reebok used two Vietnamese contractors to make its shoes in Vietnam, Thai Binh and Hiep Hung. Both Reebok factories treat
workers much better than Nike factories and also pay them better. Thai Binh, located in a lower wage province paid its workers
$55 per month and Hiep Hung paid its workers $65 per month. Sewing Factory #10, a Vietnamese state-enterprise, paid its entry
level employees $90 per month.
Nike is not investing in the 3rd World
- Despite Nike's claims of being responsible for the economic development of
Japan, Taiwan and Korea. Nike's corporate practices are good indicators that the company is only interested in exploiting
low wages in third world countries. Just like the colonial masters of the 19th century, Nike's main interest is
to take profits out of these poor nations by exploiting workers.
- Nike is not investing in the 3rd World through worker training
or human resource investment but has continually shifted its operation to the country with a lower wage. In the 1980s, Nike
produced 90% of its shoes in Taiwan and Korea. Nike has left these countries due to increases in the local minimum wage. Nike
now makes most its shoes and apparel products in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan.
- Import figures for training shoes to UK (in thousands of pounds), showing
shifts in the location of production in Asia.
(Source: EUROSTAT CD-ROM, DTI)
Nike did made changes. Nike has staffed up its PR department to go on a charm-offensive to seduce the public,
to create confusion among concerned people about the reality of Nike sweatshops and to sow doubts about anti-sweatshop activists.
Nike public stance has become much more sophisticated than five years ago. It's no longer simply refusing to acknowledge the
labor question. It now tries hard to look like a responsible citizen; it has put out more Nike-funded "studies" & propped
up Nike-funded organizations to be apologists for the Nike globalization agenda. Nike funded the Global Alliance for $10 Million
USD and got numerous feel-good articles from Global Alliance studies of Asian workers. Nike also continues to use the Fair
Labor Association (FLA) as a quasi-stamp of approval for its labor policy even though in reality the FLA is still a non-functioning
organization. The FLA has not even monitor a single factory yet, despite numerous press releases promising actions.
Behind closed-doors, however, Nike continues its goal to sabotage any labor
organization that stands in its way. To derail cooperation between US labor groups & Vietnam labor organizations, Nike
sent a "private" letter to a high-level Vietnam government official accusing US labor activists of harboring a secret agenda to change the government
in Vietnam, To stop the momentum of the Workers Right Consortium (WRC), Phil Knight's retracted his donation to the University of Oregon because
the school has joined the WRC, a labor group whose agenda competes with Nike-sponsored monitoring body, the FLA. Nike also
threatened to stop funding for universities that joined the WRC.
source: Vietnam Labor Watch
I do not know what the workers would be doing if they weren't working for
Nike. How many of us would be able to answer that question for ourselves let alone thousands of people? What would you be
doing if you weren't at your current job? There are a lot of factors to figure in aren't there? What would happen to the workers
if Nike did not provide these jobs? Again, I do not know. But I do know what would not happen to them.
- They would not be working 10-15 hour days and not making enough
- They would not be screamed at and humiliated when they weren't
meeting their production quota.
- They would not be forced to work overtime.
- They would not be threatened verbally or physically for trying
to form unions.
- They would not have healthcare plans that do not meet their
basic medical needs.
- They would not work 48-hour shifts when production quotas were
high during American holiday seasons.
- They would not have their water supply polluted by factory
- They would not have their once fertile farmland covered by
- They would not be at the mercy of American companies that worked
hand and hand with one of the most brutal military dictatorships in history.
- They would not have their economy dominated by foreigners that
want to exploit their current situation and keep them oppressed for financial gain.
- They would not be reduced to cogs in the machine that feeds
American greed and consumption.
- They would not be making American athletes and coaches rich
from their sweat.
- They would not be helping to maximize American shareholder's
- They would not have their hope taken away.
- They would not be dehumanized.
- source: Nikewages.org