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Nike:Summary of recent events

/* Written  2:16 PM  Dec  2, 1997 by clr in igc:labr.announcem */
/* ---------- "Nike:Summary of recent events" ---------- */
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Nike Campaign Update: November 25, 1997

I was on the road for two weeks and then returned to a backlog of work.
During that short period, it seemed as though a few years' worth of events
happened in the Nike campaign. In this alert, I will summarize some of the
most important recent events. Many of the documents referred to here will
soon be accessible via the Campaign for Labor Rights web site:

Trim Bissell, National Coordinator
Campaign for Labor Rights

Asian currency crashing

The economies of several Asian countries are taking a nosedive. Among the
first to do so was Indonesia, where corruption sapped much of the country's
wealth and has made investment a high-stakes gamble. In the last several
weeks, the legal minimum wage has dropped from the equivalent of $2.46 U.S.
a day to the equivalent of $1.57 or less per day. In the balance, this is
probably good news for Nike, which stands to gain more from what it 
saves in
labor costs than what it stands to lose in sales to its Asian market. The
precipitous collapse of so many economies undermines the claims of
free-trade apologists (such as Nike) who have been holding up these "Asian
tigers" as models for the rest of the world and who have touted Nike
sweatshops as the path to prosperity in the Global South.

Secret Ernst and Young report leaked:

On October 31, a United Nations consultant announced that he had 
obtained a
confidential report written by Nike's own auditor from a "disgruntled
employee." This is the first time that any of Ernst and Young's secret
reports to Nike has been made public. The report details a number of
problems at one of Nike's factories in Vietnam, including: long hours of
forced overtime at low wages and exposure to dangerous chemicals at up to
177 times the level allowed by law.

Star athlete endorser criticizes Nike:

For the first time, one of Nike's highly-compensated star endorsers has
criticized the company's labor practices in Asia. Reggie White, of the
Greenbay Packers, also pointed out that "They'd rather hire the cheap labor
than hire the kid in the neighborhood who is buying their shoes. There are
people who need jobs here."

Congressional sign-on letter to Nike:

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) are among more than 50 members
of the U.S. House of Representatives who signed a letter to Nike CEO Philip
Knight, asking the company to clean up its labor practices in Asia. They
also called upon Nike to open one complete sneaker factory in the United

Congressional delegation planned:

Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is now planning to help lead a Congressional
delegation to check out conditions in Nike's Asian factories. In accepting
Nike's invitation to conduct a first-hand inspection, Sanders expects to
demonstrate that Andrew Young missed the real story when he toured Nike
factories under the tutelage of Nike management, using translators supplied
by the company.

Sports writers criticize Nike:

In several newspapers, from the New York Times to the San Francisco
Chronicle, sports writers have been taking Nike to task in recent weeks for
its sweatshop practices in Asia. These columnists also have criticized
Nike's star endorsers for their failure to stand up to the sweatshop issue.
The credit for some of this recent increase in press coverage on Nike goes
to Communication Works, a press agency established by Global Exchange.

Dartmouth report a no-show:

Nike has yet to release the Dartmouth report Ð actually, this is simply a
class project by some MBA students at Dartmouth. With great fanfare, Nike
announced its summary of the report on October 16. The report supposedly
claims that Nike workers in Asia have telephones, VCRs and motorbikes and
still can send extra income to relatives. A bastian of conservatism,
Dartmouth is notorious for such "studies." An earlier report from Dartmouth
faculty claiming that Disney workers in Haiti are well paid was thoroughly
discredited by other researchers. More than a month later, the Dartmouth
Nike report has yet to make its way onto the Nike web site nor have copies
been available to those requesting them.

Nike sales sliding:

A recent series in the Oregonian (Portland, OR) indicates that Nike rapidly
is losing its market edge. The company has cut ties with several of its
Asian factories. Other cutbacks are expected as sales slip. Retailers report
that consumer concern about sweatshop abuses is one reason for Nike's
decline. Nike is paying for the price for its refusal to negotiate with
human rights critics.

Japan considering charges against Nike:

Japanese officials recently raided Nike offices in Japan, looking for
documents to substantiate reports that Nike has been violating anti-trust
laws. According to reports, as demand for Nike shoes has slipped in Japan,
the company has illegally coerced merchants into keeping Nike shoe 
prices at
the same levels they reached during times of high demand.

Campus protests spreading:

The campus movement against Nike sweatshop practices is spreading and
intensifying Ð especially on campuses where Nike has $multi-billion
contracts with the athletic department. Nike PR flacks continue to race from
campus to campus, trying (without success) to put out the fires. Campaign
for Labor Rights will soon be posting another alert especially for campus