A Closer Look at the Nike Sweatshop Allegations

A Georgetown protest against Nike lying about not using sweatshops

Nike has been the leading athleticwear brand for as long as I can remember. And to this day, it’s still at the forefront of fashion and sports culture. It’s affordable, it’s easy, and after all these years, it’s still cool.

But, Nike’s past is scarred with horrible allegations of slave labor and sweatshops. The question is- are those allegations still true?

The Origins of the Sweatshop Controversy

  • Nike initially produced in South Korea, China, and Taiwan. It shifted to less developed countries like Indonesia and Vietnam for cheap labor. This led to record-breaking profits.
  • Activist Jeff Ballinger’s 1991 expose on Indonesian factories shed light on low wages and harsh working conditions.
  • He found that at those factories, laws protecting the workers were ignored to cut costs and lower health standards.
  • Inspectors and politicians were probably paid off by factory supervisors to avoid being punished.

The Dark Spotlight: Media Exposure, Backlash, and Statistics

  • Life magazine’s 1996 report, showcasing child labor, sparked global concern.
  • Public outcry forced Nike to conduct factory audits, leading to improved conditions and social responsibility reports by 2005.
  • The Global Alliance for Workers and Communities, founded by Nike, reported in a study that 70% of Nike factory workers in Thailand rated their supervisors as good.
  • Reports from 1991 claimed that its Indonesian factory workers were illegally working for 14 cents an hour.

Ongoing Struggles: Global Calls for Accountability and Protests

  • Since March 2021, unions and organizations have demanded brands like Nike negotiate fair wages and labor rights.
  • In 2005, Nike pulled out of a contract with the women’s Ice Hockey team at Brown because of school protests.
  • In 2019, Nike received the worst rating in the Tailored Wages UK report, stating they couldn’t show evidence of a Living Wage being paid to any workers.
  • The Washington Post reported in 2020 that Nike purchased from a factory relying on slave labor from Uyghurs.
  • Jim Keady used to be a soccer coach at St. Johns when they signed a $3.5M deal with Nike in 1998. He resigned and spent a month living with Nike’s Indonesian factory workers. He has spent the last 20 years advocating for these workers, and he’s 100% sure Nike has not ended their use of sweatshops.

Nike’s Response: Denials, Changes, and Mixed Reactions

  • Despite initial denial, Nike introduced a code of conduct named SHAPE in the ’90s, focusing on Safety, Health, Attitude, People, and Environment.
  • The company spent millions on audits, ensuring adherence to regulations for safety, health, attitude, people, and the environment.
  • A study by the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities reflected mixed worker satisfaction, with positive feedback from some. Of course, it was founded by Nike, and is definitely not unbiased.
  • It was criticized as soon as it was founded for ignoring the problems at Nike’s own Indonesian Factories.

Conclusion: Does Nike Still Use Sweatshops?

Yeah, it seems pretty likely. If not directly, then through their sub-contractors- and while Nike will claim it has no control over that- it’s BS.

For example, Nike’s been recently exposed for using forced labor from Chinese concentration camps to produce their shoes.

If Nike didn’t want to work with a specific sub-contractor, it wouldn’t. But if it’s better for business, ethics and morals come second.

Nike has certainly made improvements, but it’s clear it is nowhere near where it should be ethically. We recommend avoiding purchasing from Nike completely.

One response to “A Closer Look at the Nike Sweatshop Allegations”

  1. […] P.S – Something you might want to know: Nike has also been exposed for using sweatshop labor […]

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