Date: Fri, 2 May 97 10:14:21 CDT
From: Mike Rhodes <email@example.com>
Subject: Nike workers strike! analysis, resources
Labor Alerts/Labor News
a service of Campaign for Labor Rights
Labor protests continue at Nike factories
From The Campaign for Labor Rights newsletter.
2 May, 1997
Points worth noting:
- The ink was barely dry on the Presidential task force agreement on
sweatshops when new labor protests erupted because of inadequate pay at Nike
factories. On April 22 and then again on April 25, 10,000 workers went on
strike at a Nike factory in Indonesia. During the same week, 1,300 workers
went on strike at a Nike factory in Vietnam. Nike's workers have yet to
benefit from the task force agreement. It is imperative to keep up the
pressure with the Nike campaign.
- Wildcat strikes such as the two recent uprisings at the PT HASI plant in
Indonesia are not usual at Nike factories in that country. What is new is
that the mainstream media are now reporting these events. Media coverage
gives the striking workers a slightly greater measure of security than they
previously have enjoyed. Nike knows that the world is watching.
- The second round of protests at the PT HASI plant was reported to
involve some destruction of property. It is likely that provocation by the
military touched off such activity. Whatever the facts of this particular
situation, we should keep in mind that any labor activity in Indonesia takes
place in a context of severe repression. Independent unions are outlawed in
Indonesia. Independent union leader Dita Sari was sentenced to 6 years in
prison on the same day that the workers marched. Independent union leader
Muchtar Pakpahan is on trial for his life. With so few viable options, Nike
workers can resort only to spontaneous, wildcat actions when their level of
frustration becomes unendurable. If destruction of property sometimes is
involved, the shame is entirely on Nike.
- The most controversial point in the Presidential task force agreement is
the standard for wages. The agreement accepts the legal minimum wage or
prevailing industry wage (whichever is higher). It is widely acknowledged
that, in most countries where the apparel industry produces, the legal
minimum wage does not constitute a living wage. Many governments keep the
legal minimum unrealistically low in order to attract foreign investment by
companies such as those of the apparel industry. To accept the legal
minimum as the standard is to require the industry to "comply" with the
unacceptable rate which its own outsourcing practices have created.
- The issue in these disputes is NOT that Nike cannot keep its contractors
under control. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. Huge
multinational corporations such as Nike exercise ultimate control over labor
conditions by paying an insufficient rate per item to their contractors.
Given what Nike pays its contractors per shoe, those shoes can be made ONLY
under sweatshop conditions.
- Nike criticised Global Exchange for its press release based on an April
23 account of the strike printed in the Jakarta Post. Thuyen Nguyen, whose
accounts of Nike labor abuses in Vietnam were widely reported by the media
last month, has observed that Nike was always quick to try to discredit his
reports by quibbling over details while ignoring the well-substantiated
larger picture of abuse.
We invite you and your local solidarity committee, peace and justice group,
union local or other organization to ORGANIZE LEAFLETING AT A STORE SELLING
NIKE PRODUCTS IN YOUR COMMUNITY. Campaign for Labor Rights provides the
following materials to help local activists:
A frequently updated Nike action packet is available in hard copy ($3 to $5
donation requested) and free via email. To receive a copy, contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 344-5410.
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The Campaign for Labor Rights Nike Document Library is available by email.
To receive any or all of the following, send an email to email@example.com and
specify your request:
- Two columns by Bob Herbert of the New York Times, based on Thuyen
Nguyen's report when he returned from an inspection tour of Nike's factories
in Vietnam: "Brutality in Vietnam" (March 28, 1997) and "Nike's Boot Camps"
(March 31, 1997).
- November 3, 1996 article in the Washington Post, written by Australian
scholar Anita Chan, describes shoe factories in China -- producing for Nike
and other companies -- which utilize a military type of worker control.
- A March, 1997 article by by San Fracisco Examiner reporter Stephanie
Salter which appeared elsewhere when her own paper refused to print it. "Up
Against the Swoosh" tells the author's anguish at being torn between her
children's desire to have overhyped products and her knowledge of Nike's
exploitation and excesses.
- A story in The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald on April 4, 1997 which
reports on a new study detailing the systematic brutalizing of young female
employees at Nike factories in West Java, Indonesia.
- An April 5, 1997 column by Detroit Free Press sportswriter Mitch Albom,
exposing the hypocrisy of Nike's advertising.
- The complete text of the Presidential task force agreement on sweatshop
issues, including the principles for monitoring.
- A analysis of the Presidential task force agreement on sweatshop issues
from the Campaign for Labor Rights newsletter published in May of 1997.
Following the article is a sample letter to Clinton, asking him to pressure
the apparel industry representatives on the task force to pay a living wage.
- A compilaton of news stories about protests by workers in April, 1997 at
Nike factories in Indonesia and Vietnam.