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Nike Ends Independent Monitoring of Its Sweatshops

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Nike-Sweatshops-05

In the world of those who pay attention to monitoring sweatshops (a sadly small world), Nike wasn’t exactly a success story, but it was a tale one could tell about how public pressure could force a corporation to improve its conditions and acquiesce to independent monitoring systems. This came out of the United Students Against Sweatshops chapters pressuring college campuses to source university clothing ethically and the public shaming of Nike for conditions in its Indonesian factories in the 1990s. For 15 years, Nike had some of the least terrible working conditions for the people putting together its apparel.

But in October, Nike announced it would no longer allow investigators from the Workers Rights Consortium to inspect its factories. This decision has received almost zero news coverage. That’s terribly disheartening. Nearly three years after the Rana Plaza collapse, companies like Nike understand that if Americans can’t really see what is happening in sweatshops, that they will do nothing to fight for changes to keep workers alive. Nike feels it will receive no pushback from this decision. It’s almost certainly right. More workers will die and Americans won’t do anything to hold its corporations accountable. Not only will workers die, but they will be beaten by bosses, sexually abused, forced to take pregnancy tests and undergo gynecological examinations without their will, be poisoned on the job and have their water and air polluted off the job, have their wages stolen, and forced to work endless hours in overheated factories. All of these things happen every single day in the global apparel industry. And we do nothing.

There is however a letter circulating, albeit only for university and college faculty. I urge you to sign it if you can. I also urge you to publicize the situation as best you can, at least by spreading this letter around. It could be a first step to fighting to stop Nike’s actions.

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  • Rob in CT

    http://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2015/12/16/nike-worker-rights-consortium-collegiate-apparel/

    Nike stated the following in a message to the WRC on October 29, in response to our request for access to Hansae Vietnam, a factory disclosed by Nike as a producer of university logo goods:

    “Nike has a rigorous due diligence and criteria-assessment process to determine third party auditors, through which representatives of the Fair Labor Association and Better Work have been approved to conduct audits of those contract factories manufacturing Nike product. However, Nike does not permit other third parties to conduct such assessments.”

    On this basis, Nike refused to allow the WRC access to Hansae Vietnam, a factory where the WRC had learned of an ongoing strike, which workers had reportedly launched in protest of the factory’s labor practices. The WRC was thus unable to effectively investigate the circumstances of the strike. Nike subsequently stated that the issues at the factory had been “resolved in compliance with [Nike’s] Code of Conduct,” and argued that this reassurance should be satisfactory to universities.

    We were surprised and concerned by Nike’s statement that it “does not permit” any “third parties” (other than the FLA and the IFC/ILO Better Work program) into its factories. The statement indicated not just an unwillingness to allow the WRC access to Hansae Vietnam, but a policy of refusing the WRC access to Nike’s collegiate factories in general.

    We responded by asking Nike to clarify whether it is, in fact, now Nike policy that it will not permit the WRC to inspect its factories, even when those factories are producing goods for WRC-affiliated universities and colleges. Receiving no response, we reiterated the request for clarification. We stressed to Nike that we wanted to make sure we were not misunderstanding the company’s statement.

    On November 13, Nike responded by stating, again, that the only outside parties it will allow into its factories are the Fair Labor Association and Better Work.

    Do you know anything about the “Fair Labor Association” or “Better Work” Erik? Is the idea here that Nike figure those auditors will be more pliable?

    • The FLA is just an industry front group, notorious for missing basic safety problems, stolen wages, etc., during their “investigations.” Nike co-founded the thing back in 1999.

      • I was also wondering whether anyone would respond to a post on labor conditions and corporate malfeasance that puts people’s lives at risk or rather would simply focus on the 110th post on the possible inaccuracies of a book.

        • Malaclypse

          But there is nothing controvertial about this post – given the purge of JenBob, nobody is going to argue about whether this is bad or not.

          We had this conversation long ago at Alterdestiny – I always read those posts, and learned a lot there, but the only comment to a lot of your stuff is “well fuck, that’s depressing.”

          • NonyNony

            I can’t just say +1 here, but yeah.

            I read posts like this and have nothing to say. It’s horrible and I have no solutions to offer. And even if I did think I had solutions to offer clearly they would be inadequate because if you could solve it in the space of a blog comment it would likely have been solved already and we wouldn’t be reading about it. And I think the lack of posts just means that everyone agrees that it’s horrible and so there’s nothing to discuss.

            Contrast with posts about trivial bullshit that doesn’t involve people being abused to death. In those kinds of posts you will always find someone to argue with and posting snarky bullshit doesn’t feel quite as offensive to the subject matter at hand.

            • wca

              Contrast with posts about trivial bullshit that doesn’t involve people being abused to death.

              See also: vodka and ketchup posts

          • Rob in CT

            This.

            Erik,

            If it would make you feel better I’ll try and post in these kinds of threads more often.

            Mostly I read them and agree and have nothing I feel like saying. I could add “that sucks” or something…

        • The Temporary Name

          While I think of it, This Day in Labor History is always great and thank you for it. Plunking such praise down in every post is a good and just thing, yet it gets repetitive for a lazy fuck such as myself.

          • NonyNony

            Yeah – I’ll agree with that. I really should just be putting in a “Thanks” on those posts even if it goes against the grain of everything I’ve ever learned as a poster on Internet forums to do so. They’re some of the best pieces on this site but they probably generate the least amount of discussion because they’re “just” interesting and informative and not the kind of thing that people get into pissing matches over.

          • Malaclypse

            This is a great example. Aside from Tanta of blessed memory, especially her Ubernerd stuff, that series is unparalleled.

        • wca

          It’s just an illustration of what the Wikipedia tells me is called Sayre’s Law. People are getting worked up over this book … because the stakes are so low.

          And, as Malaclypse points out, there really isn’t anything to say about Nike’s actions other than they’re awful and unsurprising.

          • I don’t know. I can think of lots of things to say here.

            • Malaclypse

              Right, but you actually know about the topic. I’m simply a dilettante, as, realistically, most of us are on this topic.

              I don’t think I’ve ever commented on one of your seafood/slavery posts. But I’ve shared those with a whole bunch of people, and you would be doing God’s work with those, were there a God.

              And I take it back – I can think of a way this thread could break a hundred comments: Dilan could come along and argue that you are Doing Advocacy Wrong Because Protectionism, and you would suddenly have a bunch of comments.

              • so-in-so

                A couple of people arguing that the workers are obviously lucky to have jobs, and could always go back to dirt farming or whatever people did before Nike moved the plant there would boast the message count.

                It would be wrong and terrible, but it would be something.

              • PhoenixRising

                see below for controversial but factual remarks. How’s that? I think I stuck the landing.

    • PhoenixRising

      The ILO first started doing oversight and reporting on factory conditions in Cambodia in 2000, when the US ended tariffs that effectively excluded Cambodia from the garment sector.

      The ILO jumped right in with monitoring and hired some sincere youth from the UK to teach Khmer people how to collectively bargain…which went just how you’d think…while also publishing reports on labor conditions, which are valuable in that there is someplace to look it up between transit/workplace deaths.

      So Nike might well prefer the ILO program, because on further exploration it’s in countries that have no civil governance (Cambodia, Haiti, Lesotho…) to mandate a fire inspection or civil engineers to inspect factories’ physical plants, nor any social expectation that bosses owe workers anything.

      tl;dr: it’s mainly a sham, but then WRC is a Band-aid for a concussion, pneumothorax and compound fracture, so…

  • busker type

    in college I was marginally involved with a group that helped force nike to accept independent monitoring in the first place…
    sad to see it come to this.

  • BRD

    I work at Ohio State and about an hour after I read this post I saw a tweet from the university about how they extended their contract with Nike.

    https://twitter.com/OhioState/status/688080906960171009

    Odd timing to say the least.

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