Nike posts positive student labor report

Shoe and apparel manufacturer and anti-sweatshop target Nike posted Tuesday on their Web site the reports of student monitors who visited 32 factories this spring.

The reports painted a picture of factories that may not match the sweatshops students learned about in American history, but nonetheless are still plagued with problems.

Despite several critical portions of the report, Nike has featured it prominently on the company’s Web site and has been publicizing it.

What these 16 students have done is taken a long hard look at our monitoring process, and the lion’s share of our collegiate licensed product manufacturing sites, said Dusty Kidd, director of labor practices for Nike. They have taught us a lot. We take their observations and recommendations very seriously and commit to report back what we and the factories have done, in three months.

The report, divided into three parts for Asia, North America and Latin America, presents an overview of factory conditions and a critique of PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ monitoring process for those factories.

Generally, the students found basic health and safety working conditions, such as cleanliness and ventilation, to be acceptable. The students also found little evidence of underage workers at the factories. But students found workers had little understanding of the right to freedom of association, leading the students to believe that workers may have feared gathering to right any wrongdoings.

In a sampling of 25 workers, one student reported six workers said they had been the victims of physical violence at the factories. Students were also concerned that the audits to monitor working conditions at the factories may not have been catching all violations at the plants because they were scheduled in advance, according to the report.

That natural concern was a big problem for at least one University of Kentucky member of United Students Against Sweatshops, who said he felt the report was not credible since the visits were announced and all parties involved were either paid by Nike or had transportation and accommodation paid for by the company.

It seems logical that a factory’s going to clean up if they know someone’s coming, said junior Amy Shelton, a Spanish and linguistics major.

Junior Marissa Fugate, an international economics and Spanish major at UK, was among the 16 students who participated in the monitoring. She went to three factories in El Salvador during spring break and was pleased with overall conditions at the factories.

-Mark Vanderhoff
Kentucky Kernel (U. Kentucky)

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