(en)Nike workers strike! analysis, resources

Lyn Gerry (linjin@tao.ca)
Sun, 4 May 1997 23:22:28 pst

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Thu, 1 May 1997 11:46:22 -0700 (PDT) To: clr From: Mike Rhodes <clr2@igc.apc.org> Subject: Nike workers strike! analysis, resources

Labor Alerts/Labor News a service of Campaign for Labor Rights


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 clr@igc.apc.org or (541) 344-5410.

The Campaign for Labor Rights newsletter. Send $35.00 to Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. To receive a sample copy, send your postal address to clr@igc.apc.org or 541-344-5410. We rely on subscriptions to help us provide our many services. Please join!

To receive our email Labor Alerts, send an email to clr@igc.apc.org with "labor alerts -- Nike campaign" or "labor alerts -- all campaigns" in the subject line.

Campaign for Labor Rights web site at http://www.compugraph.com/clr

The Campaign for Labor Rights Nike Document Library is available by email. To receive any or all of the following, send an email to clr@igc.apc.org 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.

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