Nike Business Practices Essay, Research Paper
Throughout much of South-East Asia and particularly Indonesia, Nike factory workers struggle within a system that devalues their work and prevents them from adequately supporting themselves and their families. Despite these factors, there is a strong yet unfounded belief that “these are great jobs for those people.”
They sleep on thin mats placed atop a concrete floor and woke up hungry in the savage heat of an Indonesian summer (Hickey 1). They eat rice, vegetables and noodles painstakingly cooked atop the same kerosene heater they used to boil their drinking water (Hickey 1). They deal with football-sized rats as fumes from burning trash mixed in the open air with the scent of the village’s open sewer system (Hickey 1). Do these sound like conditions you would like to work under? It makes me feel selfish to complain about the $6.00 an hour I made at a summer job two years ago.
I strongly believe that every job should offer a living wage . A living wage provides for the basic needs (housing, energy, nutrition, clothing, health care, education, potable water, childcare, transportation and savings) of an average family. By providing for these needs, it offers the possibility of a life with basic human dignity. Each of us knows whether or not the pay we receive from our job is enough to pay the bills and allow us to feel fully human. If it doesn’t, it is not a living wage. It is that simple.
Reports based on interviews with Nike workers in China reveal inhumane working hours including 12-hour days and 7-day weeks, low wages, illegal deductions, and use of the notorious dormitory system. Reports from worker interviews at other factories in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia tell of extensive forced overtime, anti-union action, low pay and extreme physical exhaustion from harsh production requirements (CorporateWatch.org).
These reports contradict the powerful messages being sent out by Nike’s public relations campaign to portray itself as a company that cares about working conditions. In fact, some of the specific claims made by Nike to bolster its image are directly contradicted by these new studies.
The continued ability of Nike to exploit sweatshop labor on a global scale is bad news for the half million workers who make Nike products as well as the millions of workers in the apparel and footwear industries whose companies are closely watching Nike’s response to persistent reports of sweatshop abuses.
But the continued reporting of these conditions provides a ray of hope. Telling the truth will show Nike that the only way to repair its brand image the company’s most important asset is to dramatically improve the economic and workplace conditions of the people who make Nike products. Aggressive reporting of labor violations links the fate of the swoosh to the fortunes of Nike workers.
Nike’s PR campaign is an effort to muddy the waters to show that Nike cares, that oppressive wages aren’t Nike’s fault, that inhumane work hours aren’t Nike’s fault, that suppression of basic worker rights aren’t Nike’s fault. The deplorable conditions in Nike factories are Nike’s fault. In a global economy with no rules that protect workers, it is companies such as Nike who direct the global sweatshop in industries such as clothing and footwear. To rescue its brand image, Nike must turn from public relations to paying a living wage, providing humane working conditions, and respecting the right of workers to organize.