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.