The research I have done about Nike’s labor practices was very interesting. I looked up responses of Nike to accuses on them on the internet. I found a couple of publications at www. Nikebiz. com. After I read them, I realized that Nike proclaims the same thing in an exaggerated style in every single one of them. For example in a Nike statement regarding the working conditions in El Salvador, Nike says that their constant goal always used to be to improve the safety at the working place and the indoor air quality and they proclaim that they are spending $19 million for community services in the whole world.
This all sounds very nice and responsible but when you start to read other Nike statements regarding the working conditions in China or Vietnam, you will find the exact same answers. In an open letter response to the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Nike also states the same goals and interests as in the others and then continues: “ Therefore, what more can we say to you other than you have focused on the “right issue but on the wrong company. ” We cannot speak for all global companies or force them to follow our lead.
We also have heard you say you focus on Nike because we are the market leader – not because we’ve necessarily done anything wrong. “ (http://www. nikebiz. com/labor/usas_let. shtml). To be honest, I find this response absolutely pathetic. I will explain why I do think so. After reading the statements of Nike I read passages of Tim Connor’s book “Still waiting for Nike to do it” where Connor attacks Nike to have absolutely intolerable working conditions in all of their factories in developing countries.
Nike produces only in third world countries because the wages they have to pay the workers, are much lower and they do not have to consider as many working-regulations as in industrialized countries. The whole book is an attack against Nike. I do not know if everything Tim Connor writes is the truth, but his information is based on research carried out by different people. So I believe a lot of his statements are credible. So after comparing the statements of Nike and Connor and other critics of Nike, the passage I quoted from Nike only seems pathetic to me.
In the book “Still waiting for Nike to do it” I focused on the chapter about wages from page 52 to page 61. Nike’s aim is to produce cheap and sell comparatively expensive. Kernaghan, for example, calculates, that the labor cost of shirts, which Nike sells in the US for $22. 99, was 11 cents. Although Nike makes so much profit on their products, the workers are absolutely underpaid and overworked. Workers must work excessive overtime to get enough money to have any chance to make ends need.
Work is reported to be very hard and several workers suffer from physical exhaustion because of the hard and intolerable working conditions. Workers are even punished for mistakes they make. They have to clean the factory for example. Nike manager Vada says that raising wages would hurt the workers, because Nike would have to increase the retail costs which would reduce the amount of items sold. This would lead to worker layoffs. Personally, I do not think that Nike would have to increase the retail costs if they paid the workers 22 cents instead of 11 cents.
Nike would still make a handsome profit. Even if they increased the price of a shirt by 11 cents, customers would still buy it. In August 2000, Jim Keady and Leslie Kretzu, two former US professional soccer players, traveled to Tangerang in Indonesia and tried to live one month of the wages paid to Nike workers in that area. Keady lost 25 pounds, which is about 11kg. The two documented that the price of one uncooked chicken is equivalent to a full day’s basic wage. I think this experiment is very interesting and shows that the criticism towards Nike is absolutely legitimate.
Nike is the market leader and therefore very powerful. The corporation’s power is big enough to manipulate governments. Developing countries tend to keep legal minimum wages as low as possible in order to attract foreign investors. Companies like Nike regularly transfer production to low-wage countries. Nike even threatens governments to leave in order to put pressure on them. According to Connor, Nike spokesperson Jim Small, responding to an increase in the Indonesian minimum wage, warned that Indonesia might be “pricing itself out of the market. ”
All this evidence makes Nike appear to be an unscrupulous, corrupt gangster-organization. This might sound a little bit exaggerated, but if you take a look at the reports of some workers and journalists this judgement seems more and more justified. I truly understand that of course every company wants to make as much profit as possible, but I do think that countries should respect human rights. Especially, companies should never become more powerful than countries, because if that happens we will lose our freedom and our democracy. Klein, N. : No Logo