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Why is Nike Afraid of Disclosing what their Overseas Factory Workers are Paid?

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TEAM SWEAT, the international coalition consumers and investors who are standing in solidarity with Nike's overseas factory workers have recently kicked off an effort to get Nike to publicly disclose how much their overseas factory workers are paid.

To date, Nike has refused to disclose this information and we are left asking, "If Nike feels confident that workers are being paid a fair wage, why are they afraid of making this information public?"

Perhaps it's important to provide a little history on what Nike has said publicly about workers' wages in the past. In my opinion, Nike has been a little schizophrenic on the factory worker wage issue." Check out the statements below and you will understand why I feel this way.

Nike Founder and Chairman of the Board, Phil Knight on Nike Workers' Wages

When asked by a PBS reporter if he felt comfortable that Nike factory workers were making a living wage, Phil Knight responded:

"Absolutely. No question about it."

Mr. Knight was emphatic that workers are paid a living wage, however, he provided no data to back up his claim.

Nike's 2006 Corporate Responsibility Report on Nike Workers' Wages
When discussing the issue of living wages, Nike's 2006 CR Report stated that:

"Some worker advocates suggest that a living wage should be paid. We do not support approach."

Wait a second. Didn't Phil Knight say that workers were "absolutely" being paid a living wage, "no question about it"? If Nike's founder and Chairman of the Board said that workers are being a living wage, why would Nike release a statement in their CR Report saying that Nike does not support living wages be paid to factory workers?

Vada Manager, Former Nike Director of Global Issues Management on Nike Workers' Wages

When asked by a reporter from HBO Sports about wages for Nike's factory workers, Vada Manager, Nike's Director of Global Issues Management said:

"(Nike) raised wages 70 percent in Indonesia. We have a code that applies globally and that provides wages that far surpass regional or national minimum wages."

In this statement, Nike's Director of Global Issues Management said that Nike has the power to raise workers wages. (Remember this when you read the next Nike statement.) He also said that Nike's Code of Conduct "provides wages that far surpass regional or national minimums." This is a lie. Here is what Nike's Code of Conduct actually states with regard to worker compensation.

"The contractor provides each employee at least the minimum wage, or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher; provides each employee a clear, written accounting for every pay period; and does not deduct from employee pay for disciplinary infractions."

Where exactly in this paragraph does Nike provide for "wages that far surpass regional or national minimum wages?"

Hannah Jones, Nike Vice President for Corporate Responsibility on Nike Workers' Wages

In response to a letter from me, Hannah Jones, Nike's VP for Corporate Responsibility, wrote the following on April 19, 2009.

"Nike does require that factories manufacturing our products comply with local legal minimum wages, and this is something we aim to verify in our auditing process. However, because factories are not Nike-owned, it is not possible for us to mandate what wages should be paid by the factories to workers. Moreover, this data is not something that we collect; it is owned and managed by factories, which is why Nike cannot disclose workers' wage rates."

So, Ms. Jones, Nike's VP for Corporate Responsibility is saying:

1. That Nike gathers wage data to "verify" that factories are paying the legal minimum wage. This means that Nike has the wage rates for all their production plants.

2. That Nike cannot "mandate what wages should be paid." But didn't Vada Manager say above that, "Nike raised wages 70 percent in Indonesia"? If Nike raised wages, doesn't that mean that they can mandate what wages should be paid?

3. That data on wages "is not something that we (Nike) collect." But didn't she say in her first sentence above that Nike audits factories to ensure that they "comply with local legal minimum wages"? When you audit something, don't you collect data on it? How could Nike be sure that factories are in compliance if this data is "not something we collect"?

4. That based on her statements "Nike cannot disclose workers' wage rates."

Clearly Nike wants consumers and investors to remain in the dark on the issue of what workers are paid in their overseas production plants. This is despite the fact that in their 2006 CR Report, Nike said that "transparency is the first step to open-source problem solving." Given this and the information above, don't you feel that Nike has a responsibility to their consumers and investors to be transparent and publicly disclose the raw data on factory workers' wages?

Do you want to join us in demanding that Nike publicly disclose what they pay their overseas factory workers?

If you said, "yes," here is what you can do.

1. Send an email right now to Nike CEO, Mark Parker at mark.parker@nike.com and demand that he publicly disclose wage rates for Nike's overseas factories.

2. Cut and paste your e-mail to the TEAM SWEAT fan page wall on Facebook for all our supporters to see.

3. If you feel like having some fun with your video camera, make a short (10-20 second) video of yourself making your demand of Nike and post it to the TEAM SWEAT fan page wall on Facebook.

4. If you want to organize students at your school or in your community to put more grassroots pressure on Nike, email me at jim@educatingforjustice.org and I will tell you how to get started.

I'm looking forward to reading your emails to Mr. Parker, seeing your video clips, and hearing from you about organizing your campus with TEAM SWEAT.