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Nike’s Labour Troubles

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Essay title: Nike’s Labour Troubles

NIKE's labour troubles

Nike publicizes itself as one of the leading industries in corporate responsibility. However, they do not comply with several human rights obligations overseas in countries like Thailand, Pakistan, China, Vietnam and Indonesia. In these countries, production facilities called sweatshops have been running for almost 35 years employing workers as young as 13 years of age. The conditions of these factories are adverse to say the least and deprive workers of the moral human rights they should be entitled to. Sweatshops are unethical, immoral and demonstrate Nike’s ignorance towards their social responsibilities abroad. Within these facilities, workers endure stressfully long days under undesirable conditions, often with no breaks and very little pay. While this is going on overseas, sponsored athletes are being paid million dollar salaries here in North America. Although Nike’s reputation has been foiled through the tabloids regarding this issue, they have been making a substantial effort to “clean up” production messes in the East.

Nike, as many other companies do, facilitates production in other countries to help grow sales in those particular regions. The main difference between Nike and some of the other companies is that other companies do not support the exploitation of labourers or human rights. Not to suggest that Nike promotes labour exploitation, but they are less strict about these rules than other companies in foreign markets. Impacts on health and safety are a major factor for employees in sweatshops. However, physical and sexual abuse is another serious concern of many of the sweatshop workers. Most of the sweatshops run by Nike contractors are factories located in relatively small spaces to save on real estate costs. They are often soiled with dirt and kept unheated to save on expenses. Broken glass and dangerous equipment is left on the floors causing potential dangers to any people scattered within the factory. Employees are subject to harassment and violent punishments if work is not being completed as thoroughly and efficiently as the contractors would like. Workers slave under unfavourable conditions for up to 14-hour days often with no breaks. These employees are paid less than $100 US and work on average over 250 hours per month. "Substandard wages keep factory workers in poverty and force them to work excessive amounts of over time to fulfill their basic needs. Nike refused to acknowledge its responsibility to pay workers a living wage," said Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange. One case in specific listed a woman in Vietnam who worked 253.5 hours and was paid $44.63 US for one months work. This translates to approximately 17 cents an hour! If a teenager in Canada working at McDonalds making minimum wage ($6.85) worked the same number of hours, he or she would make approximately $1770 (not including deductions or taxes). Since Nike gained a tighter grip on their production facilities in Asia working conditions are starting to improve. In China, one factory provides living quarters and meal plans which are partially paid for by the company as well as a $73 US per month salary. Nike’s SHAPE (Safety, Health, Attitude of Management, People, Environment) Program is a program delegated exclusively to labour-practice enforcement. Although this is a step in the right direction, it does not pardon or excuse the acts that Nike contractors have enforced on sweatshop workers in the past.

Professional athletes like Michael Jordon, Scottie Pippin, Charles Barkley, Ken Griffy Jr., Sergai Federov, Mats Sundin, Mia Hamm and Tiger Woods are all sponsored by Nike. These talented individuals are highly valued in sports society and are paid accordingly. Salaries of these athletes all exceed $10 M per year. Michael Jordon alone currently earns $40M per year! Nike endorses these athletes and pays them generous royalties to represent them well. Regardless of whether or not these athletes were sponsored by Nike, they would still earn a substantial salary. These athletes are giving Nike excellent support, but in return Nike is giving them a terrible reputation. By promoting Nike, these athletes are indirectly promoting the appalling acts that Nike contractors have been supporting such as exploitation of labour rights, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions in countries abroad. If these athletes were to boycott Nike, they would gain much more than they would lose. Although they would lose some sponsorship money, they would gain publicity and probably more sponsors for acting upon good moral and ethical judgement. In turn, this would send a signal to Nike’s upper management indicating to them to clean up their acts concerning sweatshops in Asian countries. With less sponsorship royalties to pay out, Nike will have a significantly greater amount of capital to spend on mending their broken reputation

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