NIKE- The Side Not Seen In Stores

By, Austin R. Hagaman

The human race is an unfair and stupid competition.
A lot of the runners don't even get decent sneakers or clean drinking water.
Some people are born with a massive head start, every possible help along the
way and still the referees seem to be on their side. It's not surprising some people
have given up competing altogether and gone to sit in the grandstand, eat junk food and shout abuse.
What we need in this race is a
lot more streakers.

Just Do It Nike

Nike, Inc. is the leading manufacturer of sporting apparel and shoes in the world. They sponsor a slew of prominent athletes and sports teams, as well as clothe the everyday person. Their logo, the swoosh, is advertised everywhere and has become a respected sign of a quality brand. What the consumer does not see when buying the product in stores is what goes on behind the scenes in the Nike industry. Everywhere in the world there are people who consistently wear the Nike brand not ever questioning who or how the product was made. They pay high prices, sometimes over 200 dollars, for sneakers that cost pennies to make, a working wage of around 2 dollars an hour. Simply stated, Nike controls sweatshops in third world countries to take advantage of loose labor laws and maximize profits. According to Church and United Nation teachings, Nike is committing a grave crime. While it can be argued that the capitalist system that runs America is to blame for Nike’s actions, it can also be argued that paying workers a just living wage is a moral obligation for all people under any system. All men and women are born with the same rights to an honest and healthy lifestyle and this opportunity is not given to the sweatshop workers around the world. Nike’s abuse of men and women in unfortunate situations is a world crime that needs to be addressed and stopped. Nike exploits its workers, pays them unjust wages and fails to treat them with basic human dignity. As the leading brand in its field, Nike is responsible for leading the way in creating an honest free-market-Just Do It Nike.

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Social Analysis- Capitalism, Sweatshops, and Nike's Involvement

When it comes to capitalism it is hard for a company not to use sweatshops if they are available. In his book, “When Corporations Rule the World”, David Korent proclaims that Capitalism can be expressed as, “He who has the gold rules” (Korten 1995, 312). Hefair-trade.jpg states that a capitalist economy is made up of private owners of capital who essentially do anything they can to rise above the other. From capitalism grew the “consumer culture”, which started when big companies wanted to maximize the demand for their product. The transformation into consumerism successfully turned a culture surrounding religion-the United States culture before consumerism-into a culture engrossed with material goods (Korten 1995, 150). The companies, while still under the small and local characteristics of Adam Smith’s ideal world, became experts at creating demand for their products. The growing desire to create this demand gave birth to marketing in management. The government then became a supporter of consumerism in order to maintain a healthy employment rate, because consumerism led to the dependence of wage employment. The endorsement by the government caused consumerism to spread exponentially in the United States, causing advertising to grow rapidly, turning local companies into national companies, eventually leading to global companies as technology advanced (Korent 1995, 151).
Korent also explains that the competitive nature of capitalism created the globalization of companies-the integration of companies around the world usually through trade to maximize profits. Globalization created a vast jump in competition in the markets which turned “localities against one another in a self destructive competition for economic survival” (Korent 1995, 269). William Cavanaugh explains in his book, “Being Consumed”, that fair-trade became a measure to regulate globalization, it treats the “distant neighbor” not as just labor but as a person (Cavanuagh 2008, 88). He explains that fair-trade, the way it is now, is not really fair and that the only way to make it fair is to make it a market that “truly and fully” lets free transactions take place (Cavanaugh 2008, X). By this he means that fair-trade would encompass a worker making shoes for a certain wage, if both sides agree on the wage; but if the worker does not have the proper information about the job or a44_nike_sweatshop.jpggrees to the terms only out of desperation then the fair-trade is not really fair. In reality it is a company taking advantage of the desperation of a person (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 4).
Nike practices globalization and attempts to practice fair-trade. The company produces its products through subcontractors who run sweatshops in third world countries, such as Indonesia. According to the book “Rising Above Sweatshops”, on May 12, 1998 Phil Knight, Chairman and CEO of Nike, gave a speech on “New Labor Initiatives”. The book proclaims that Nike committed to, in the speech, many changes that would take place in its sweatshops such as: increasing the minimum age to 18 in footwear factories and 16 in all other “light-manufacturing” factories; creating personal exposure limits and a standard for indoor air quality; funding open forums and research to aid in the discovery of better business practices; educating its workers to high school levels; increasing support for its loan programs; creating monitor programs, and releasing the results to the public (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 183-184).
Nike, under contract, forces all of its manufacturers to post its code of “New Labor Initiatives” in all places of work, translated to the language of the worker (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 145). The “New York Times” held Nike in high regard after its code of labor came out saying that Nike “set a standard that other companies should match” (Hartman, Arnold Wokutch 2003, 148).
This code of labor laws was not all it seemed though. In Tim Connor’s book, “Still Waiting for Nike To Do It” he explains that Nike has not really done what it said it would do. In a table on page ten of his book he lists Nike’s commitments, what it actually did, and then what it could do to fulfill their commitments. Below is the replicated table:

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Did Nike Do It?

Knight’s Six Promises
The History
Has Nike done it?
What should Nike do?
Adherence to U.S.
Health and Safety
(OSHA) standards
in factory air

Leaked 1997 audit showed
workers in Nike supplier
Tae Kwang Vina were be-
ing exposed to toxic gases
at up to 177 times the Viet-
namese legal limit.
Nike Gives factories advance
notice of testing, allowing
them to change chemical use
on the day the test is con-
ducted. Nike is not yet will-
ing to regularly release the
results of those tests.
Ensure that health and
safety monitoring in-
cludes unannounced fac-
tory visits. Fully disclose
the methodology and re-
sults of its air quality test-
ing program.
Raising the
minimum age for
factory workers to
18 for footwear
factories and 16 for
apparel factories.

1996 story in Life magazine
on child labor in the soccer
ball industry in Pakistan
embarrassed Nike.
There is some evidence of
workers younger than this
still working in Nike con-
tract factories.
When families cannot af-
ford to feed their children,
enforcing factory age lim-
its can force those children
into even more dangerous
and degrading work. Nike
workers should be paid
enough to provide their
children with food, shelter
and basic education
Involving non-
organizations in
factory monitoring,
with summaries of
that monitoring
made available to
the public.

Nike’s reliance on for-profit
firms to monitor its factories
has drawn consistent criti-
cism. As far as rights groups
were concerned, this prom-
ise to include NGOs in fac-
tory monitoring was the most
important announcement in
Knight’s speech.
Nike has held discussions with
a number of NGOs which it
claims will improve its moni-
toring program. It will not say
which NGOs, if any, will be
allowed to regularly monitor
factory labor standards, or
when summary reports will be
released to the public.
To be genuinely indepen-
dent, factory monitors
should be selected by an
independent body such as
the Workers’ Rights Con-
sortium, in which unions
and human rights groups
are strongly represented.
Expanded education
programs making
free high school
equivalency courses
available to Nike
sport shoe workers.

Nike’s own initiative.
The education program has
expanded, but wages are so
low that only a very small
proportion (2%) of Nike
workers can afford to give
up overtime income in or-
der to take one of the
If Nike workers were paid
a full time wage that covered
their basic needs (including
basic education), then they
would have the time and
the means to take after
hours high-school courses,
or choose to improve their
lives in other ways.
Increased micro-
enterprise loan
program to a
thousand families
each in the
countries of
Vietnam, Indonesia,
Pakistan, and

Nike’s own initiative.
Nike has announced which
organizations are imple-
menting these programs
and that loans have been
made to 5,000 individuals,
but has declined to say in
which regions they are op-
erating or how much the
program costs.
It is far cheaper for Nike
to give micro-loans to
5,000 individuals outside
Nike factories than to en-
sure that the 530,000
workers producing the
company’s product are
paid a wage which would
allow them to live with
dignity. Nike should com-
mit to a living wage before
it seeks public relations
kudos by funding chari-
table programs like this.
Funding university
research and open
forums on respon-
sible business
practices, including
funding four
programs in United
States universities
in the 1998–99
academic year

Nike had funded some re-
search prior to 1998 but that
research had been heavily
criticized for lacking aca-
demic rigor.
Nike held one open forum
on health and safety in No-
vember 1998. The company
has refused reputable aca-
demics access to Nike facto-
ries to conduct research, and
the research it has funded
seems geared to providing
private information to Nike
rather than stimulating aca-
demic debate.
Set up an independent
committee made up of
reputable academics to
assess funding applica-
tions and determine
which should be funded.
Ensure that the results of
all research is released
From "Still Waiting For Nike To Do It" by Tim Connor. Pg 10. Table 1.

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..Social Analysis Continued

As seen in the above table, Nike has not fulfilled any of its duties to its workers. The code was merely a publicity stunt to get the media off its back and still be able to take advantage of cheap labor over seas.
The “New Labor Initiatives”, while not being exactly followed, have resulted in Nike treating its workers better than the required local laws of the country it is in. “Rising Above Sweatshops” offers the argument that multinational companies are treating their workers better than what is required. While the book agrees that multinational companies are treating their workers economic_opportunity.jpgbetter than what is required it points out that what is required is not enough, that the regulations are under developed. The working regulations in third world countries are much less than what is needed for a worker to live a fair and healthy lifestyle. It also points out that while multinational companies, such as Nike, pay above the regulated wage rate it also is still not enough for a worker to live a fair and healthy lifestyle (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 42). According to “Rising Above Sweatshops” management theorist Jeffery Pfeffer points out that regardless of local regulations companies need to abide by seven practices in order to show respect for their employees: 1) Employment security for all workers 2) Selective hiring of new personnel 3) Self-managed teams and decentralization of decision making as the basic principles of organizational design 4) Comparatively high compensation contingent on organizational performance 5) Extensive training of employees 6) Reduced status distinctions and barriers, including dress, language, office arrangements, and wage differences across all level in the company 7) Extensive sharing of financial and performance information throughout the organization (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 130). It is important for Nike to practice these rules to better suit the lives of its workers.
Overall, Nike needs to follow through with its “New Labor Initiatives” and work to better the lives of its sweatshop employees. Nike’s current practices are immoral and hazardous to the lives of its workers. The company could be aiding the growth of third world economies but instead is deepening their desperation. By giving its workers a living wage, Nike can further the lives of people around the world while still making a large profit, but they choose to be greedy and maximize profit to the highest sum, at the cost of their workers. As will be discussed in the next section, Nike’s practices are immoral and criminal, in that their workers die and suffer everyday in result of the unfair labor conditions.

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The Immoral Nike

Jim Keady's Story- Catholic Social Teaching and Nike

Behind The Swoosh

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Theological Analysis

“If I have despised to abide judgment with my manservant or my maidservant, when they had any controversy against me, what shall I do when God shall rise to judge? and when he shall examine, what shall I answer him? Did not He that made me in the womb make him also: and did not one and the same form me in the womb?” - Job xxxi.1315

Work under Church teaching is an amazing thing for humanity. It transforms the person and gives him a sense of being “more human” (Houck, Williams 1983, 131). The Church also teaches that there needs to be justice in the workplace. It states that the workplace needs to be an “environment where all workers have an opportunity to attain the social fruits of the God-given human dignity” (Houck, Williams 1983, 210). It is important to consider these Church teachings, that come straight from John Paul II’s “Laborem Exercens”, when analyzing Nike’s labor forces. Clearly, Nike does not preserve the human dignity of its sweatshop workers. sweatshop_worker.jpgThis can be established in Nike’s failure to pay a living wage, failure to supply adequate working conditions, and failure to aid to their workers' needs.
“The Christian Social Manifesto” by Joseph Husslein states that in sweatshops men are looked at as tools to produce money, just as if they were machines. Their dignity is disregarded as well as any “higher aspirations”. The workers are placed in an environment of fear that “offends all human decencies”; it disregards the “Sabbath itself for the sake of gain”. Husslein writes that as the commercial art was born man was “debased” (Husslein 1931, 56). He also stresses that no matter how much power someone has in the world, in the end everyone will be judged on the same platform. As beings united through Christ all people carry a responsibility “of mutual consideration” when it comes to labor and capital. He describes that the responsibility is an “obligation of justice” as well as a “charity” shared by employer and employee (Husslein 1931, 24-25). Husslein expresses that he can think of no better an example dealing with both the “overwork upon the mind as well as the body”, in recent times, then garment workers (Husslein 1931, 168).
Nike employs thousands of garment workers every year in third world countries, and robs them of their human dignity by failing to fulfill their obligations as employees. Husslein states that this harsh treatment of sweatshop workers is the result of “commercialism which regards labor as a means only of producing profit”, he calls it “paganism pure and simple” (Husslein 1931, 168). In order for Nike to support the dignity of the human person it has to satisfy the needs of the physical human and the “needs of the heart and the spirit” (Strain 1989, 216). This is because every human has a “dignity” that is established by God’s given power to reason and understand. They need to be free to form the life they want as well as form the life of their community with “the capacity for love and friendship” (Strain 1989, 218). To give this dignity to a human a small level of economic security needs to be granted (Strain 1989, 220). This security is not given to Nike sweatshop workers. As Jim Keady states in the above video, Nike sweatshop workers are not paid enough money to live. The amount of money paid to them is not even enough to support themselves let alone support a family. In one instance Mr. Keady explains that to buy shaving cream and a razor he had to give up a meal. He also explains that when his partner got sick she had to choose between buying medicine or buying food because the per day wage was not enough to buy both. The wages paid by Nike are not enough to aid the physical needs of a human or the general “heart and spirit of a human”. As written in “The Christian Social Manifesto” the Old Testament “proclaims a perfect similarity” to a villain who shoots a man dead in cold blood and the employer who “defrauds” an employee of a living wage. They are both labeled as brothers and “men of blood”. Husslein further explains that “the bread of the needy is the life of the poor” and that the person who “defraudeth them is therefore a man of blood” (Husslein 1931, 176).
In the eyes of the Church Nike is acting as a murderer in the sense that it does not pay its workers a just wage and that the current wage given to his workers often causes death, related to the lack of money supplied to live a healthy lifestyle. Job xxxi.1315 states that, “Did not He that made me in the womb make him also: and did not one and the same form me in the womb?”. This is an important question that emphasizes the fact that no matter the social class or social standing every human came from the same place, in the same image of the same God. Being so, every human should have the same right to an honest and healthy life style. Even if considered with religion aside, it is fair to say that a human is a human and as so, should have the right to the same opportunities. Under these conditions, Nike, as a leading corporation, is obligated to further humanity by distributing fair living wages to all of its workers.

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Can Nike Do It? What Can The Consumer Do?

Changing the way the sporting gear industry uses overseas factories is easy. The only thing needed for this change is time and investment. As the leader in sporting goods, Nike can set an example for other brands in the industry. The consumer can also make an effort to change the poor labor conditions by speaking out against the industry and raising awareness of the issue. The steps are simple, they just need to be taken.

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Nike Can Do It

Of course Nike can do it. Nike is in complete control of the situation, the company chooses to exploit humans for the sake of making a greater profit; it can easily choose to help humans at a lesser profit. Jim Keady, the man seen in the video above, suggests that if Nike redirected 7% of its ad budget to the wage issue, it would raise the wages of its workers and take them out of poverty. Only 7% of one section of Nike’s budget is needed for Nike to better the lives of thousands of people. 
Nike could suggest that all of its competitors are using sweatshops in third world countries so it has to use them as well, to compete. If Nike does not produce as high of a profit as its competitors it could lose shareholders and then eventually lose even more money. This argument holds little weight-If competitors in baseball were all using steroids it would not make it ethical or legal for an individual to use steroids. As the leading brand in the market Nike needs to lead the way to better wages in overseas factories, they have no viable excuse to exploit innocent human beings. Also, as the world moves closer and closer to better human rights in all different aspects of life the time will eventually come when cits_so_cool_to_wear_nike.jpgonsumers will only buy products not made in sweatshops. If Nike acts now and leads the way, instead of following suit when the time comes, it can make a huge profit when the human rights boom occurs.
If Nike pays it’s workers a higher wage it could also raise profits through an inside out change. “Rising Above Sweatshops” argues that if a company like Nike raises its wages it can raise productivity amongst workers; raise the moral of its workers; lower training costs; higher the corporate reputation amongst competitors and consumers; gain an elevated trust with stockholders; gain a sense of worker commitment; form a better relationship with the community as a whole; cause “social cohesion and civil stability”; and most of all change the consumer perception of the company (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 10).
Nike “doing it” is very possible. The results of Nike working to help its factory workers will not only save lives and aid to the strengthening of poor economies but can also raise overall profits.

The Consumer Can Do It

Nike relies on the consumer to buy its products, that's how the business is run. Without the consumer buying the products Nike would go bankrupt, this makes the consumer the reason Nike is still using sweatshops. The book “Rising Above Sweatshops” suggests that as consumers we need to pressure Nike into changing their labor practices (Hartman, Arnold, Wokutch 2003, 4). Charles Strain writes in his book “Prophetic Visions and Economic Realities: Protestants, Jews and Catholics Confront the Bishops' Letter on the Economy” that if we, the consumer, want something done better we need to be willing to find it and pay more for it. He says that consumers and sellers “must reckon with the multifaceted conditions of production and consumption, each with an eye toward the responsibility of the other” (Strain 1989, 60).
“Can We Put An End To Sweatshops?”, a book deeply concerned with labor policies, calls the consumer to pressure companies into practicing the “Ratcheting Labor Standards”. This would be a set of standards monitored by a company to insure the betterment of factory worker dignity. The monitoring would be public and would create a competitive field that would cause a rapid change in the way overseas factories are run (Fung, O’Rourke, Sabel 2001, 4-5).
The most basic strategies a consumer can use to change the labor situations are simple. The most basic strategy a consumer can take is to simply raise awareness of the issue. On a more intricate level the consumer can either choose to boycott Nike and buy locally or buy Nike and cover or remove the logo. The problem with boycotting Nike is that it would directly effect the sweatshop workers-if Nike does not get paid the workers do not get paid. The best option of the two would be to keep buying Nike products but sew over the swoosh or even take it off. The other easy step a consumer can take to make a change in Nike’s labor practices is to write Nike and tell them how they feel about the sweatshops they use. The strategies are easy and only take up time, all the consumer needs to do is to “Just Do It”.

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In Conclusion..

It is clear through the information presented that there is still a problem with Nike’s labor practices, and that it needs to be addressed both by the consumer and the company itself. What Nike is doing is morally wrong and should be considered illegal. According to Church teachings, Nike’s labor practices can be related to a villain who kills in cold blood. Companies like Nike are exploiting third world countries deepening the desperation of it’s people. Consumerism is the result of this exploitation but it does not mean there is no way out of the situation. As Jim Keady states in the above video “the American dream is not consumerism, it is democracy.” Democracy is the practice that all people are created equally and, as the “Declaration of Independence" states, that all people have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If the American dream is followed and pursued, Americans should work to give the people of third world countries the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The only way to fulfill this dream is to give sweatshop workers a better wage and the dignity they deserve as fellow human beings. It is up to the consumer to pressure Nike into changing their practices and it is up to Nike to lead the way in changing the process in which overseas factories are run. Change is possible-Just Do It Nike ...and consumers.

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Getting Involved With the Issue

Team Sweat Official Website
Team Sweat On Facebook
Educating For Justice

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Cavanaugh, William T.. Being Consumed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.

Connor, Tim. Still Waiting For Nike To Do It. San Francisco: Global Exchange, 2001.

Hartman, Laura P., Denis G. Arnold, and Richard E. Wokutch. Rising Above Sweatshops. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers , 2003.

Houck, John W., and Oliver F. Williams. Co-Creation and Capitalism. Lanham, MD: University Press Of America, 1983.

Husslein, Joseph. The Christian Social Manifesto: An Interpretative Study of the Encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno of Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI (Science and Culture Series). wisconsin: The Bruce Pub. Co., 1931.

Justice, Pontifical Council for, and Peace(Author). Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL D]. Washington D.C.: Usccb, 2005.

Korten, David C.. When Corporations Rule the World. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1995.

Strain, Charles R. . Prophetic Visions and Economic Realities: Protestant, Jews & Catholics Confront The Bishops' Letter On The Economy. Grand Rapids, Michigan : Wm. B. Eedmans Publishing Co., 1989.

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