Is Nike the Only One To Blame?


Last spring semester I went abroad at Semester at Sea, where I traveled the world to 12 different countries on  a ship. I went to countries such as Taiwan, India, China, and Africa where issues such as child labor, poor wages, and unsafe working conditions are very common and continue to be major problems for those countries. By going to these countries and actually witnessing these issues first hand, I will be the first person to say that Nike was wrong. I am strongly against labor malpractice such as child labor and unfair/inhuman wages and working conditions and Nike is to blame when it comes to their factories abroad that contained all these issues of labor malpractice, but is Nike the only one to blame?

Nike’s practice has proven to be wrong and inhumane in regards to the decisions they made by trying to lower costs by outsourcing their production to countries abroad. They took advantage of this and did whatever it took get to get the lowest possible costs for production. Many activists believed that Nike’s policy “encouraged contractors to mistreat they workers in pursuit of unrealistic production quotas. As activist continued to fight these issues, it became more and more publicly known and Nike continued to lose support and profits. More and more people stopped buying their products and refused to wear their products. Many professional and collegiate sports program ended contracts that they had with them, some coached even quit their jobs if it meant that they had to wear Nike products. A large part of this problem is in fact caused by Nike, but I don’t think they are the only ones to blame and there are other outside forces that let Nike do what they did when it came to their policies and malpractices. When Nike chose to move their factories to Indonesia from Taiwan and South Korea for even lower costs, the Indonesian government and union did not help protect their workers from them. The government played more of a role in aiding Nike continue to treat their workers poorly, instead of trying to protect them. “..the Suharto government clearly was more interested in wooing investors than acceding to any union demands. So wages labor stayed low and labor demands were minimal.” (3)

Although Nike was the first corporation to get caught with their abroad labor malpractices, they were not the only company that have been involved in these types of actions. In the article, Andrew Young states, “Are workers in developing countries paid far less than U.S. workers?  Of course they are.  Are their standards of living painfully low by U.S. standards?  Of course they are.  This is a blanket criticism that can be leveled at almost every U.S. company that manufactures abroad…  But it is not reasonable to argue that any one particular U.S. company should be forced to pay U.S. wages abroad while its direct competitors do not.” (9) Many of Nike’s competitors are participating in the same kinds of labor malpractice, but Nike is the only company being blamed. If people are going to boycott Nike for their malpractices, then they must do the same for other companies that do the same.

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This entry was posted in Business, Cases (Real World), Equality, Ethics, Government, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is Nike the Only One To Blame?

  1. kjc013 says:

    While I agree that Nike is not the only company to blame with regard to labor malpractice, I do not think that means that they should be let off the hook. I know that you mentioned that several sports teams and other customers boycotted Nike products in protest of the company’s immoral behavior, but I disagree that the blame should be put onto the countries in which the Nike factories are located. If other countries do not provide protection for their workers, United States companies should choose different factory locations and not stoop to that country’s level by turning a blind eye to the situation. For example, when I was in Denmark, I was in an International Business class that visited several companies throughout Denmark and London, and even single company we visited made it a point to mention that they prided themselves on using moral labor practices in the making of their products.

  2. eeewald says:

    I also feel strongly against labor malpractice, and until recently I thought it was only something that went on in places like China and South America. This semester I’m taking Human Resources Management and for our most recent class we had to read an article about similar practices in the United States. Basically, American business owners who need extra help in the smmer months promise foreign students with these J-1 visas that they will provide them with a job and a place to stay for the summer, but it turns out that a lot of these employers are not living up to their promises. They cram dozens of students into a single room and only pay them a fraction of what they promise and if the students complain then they send them home. It’s an interesting article and it made me aware to a big problem in the U.S. that I thought only happened in poorer, less developed countries.
    http://moodle.bucknell.edu/mod/resource/view.php?id=8497

  3. meghancrawford says:

    I agree strongly with this notion that nike is not the only one to blame. I feel that Nike should be punished for its actions and should not allow their workers to be treated as they are internationally but I also feel a lot of other companies are not getting blamed. Nike is such a huge corporation that targeting them is a smart decision to provide awareness around the world but they also have the market power to ignore and appeal accusations against them. I feel that social justice groups should try to bring down other smaller corporations first to set a precedent that it is not ok to practice poor international labor practices and then with enough information, data, and legal work bring Nike down as well.

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