Relentless Knock

In the Nike case, there are several issues discussed such as harsh working conditions, children working unreasonably long hours, and wages.  I agree with the critics of Nike that workers should not be in a factory environment where it is unsafe for whatever means.  I also agree that the children should not be forced by International management to work an unfair number of hours per week.  However, I cannot say that I agree with the critics that international worker’s wages should be any different than they are now.

When these issues were first brought up, Nike insisted that it was not their concern or responsibility what was going on in regards to violations in its contracting factories.  Strikes and media attacks were not letting up and began hurting Nike’s revenues in 1998.  Anti-Nike headlines filtered down into college campuses and Nike was undergoing image problems.  Phil Knight gave a speech in May 1998 admitting to labor issues and setting requirements such as a minimum age of 15 and employees working no more than 60 hours per week.  Also Knight announced Nike’s increased involvement with Washington-based reform efforts.  This won back customers and gave the swoosh a more positive view in most eyes.  I think that Knight made the right move by admitting to these problems, but it shouldn’t have taken him over 6 years to come to this solution.  Instead of fighting the criticism by conducting independent evaluations and audits to prove their innocence, they should have admitted to the problems and made changes right away.  After all, it is the Nike image that these problems have a direct influence on.

However, even after these issues were addressed, Jeff Ballinger and other critics were still not pleased because the minimum wages were not raised.  The reason I say that I do not agree with the critics that international worker’s wages for Nike should be any different than they are now is because of the valid point that Andrew Young makes.  “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.” (Young p. 9)  Basing things off of this argument, I do not think it is fair to depict Nike as a cruel company because of this.  They are still competing with other companies and they should not be singled out or targeted on the wage issue.  In the case Ballinger and critics stated that wages were too low for worker’s to meet their daily requirements for food and other necessities.  However, statistics show that 91% of workers reported being able to support themselves individually and workers from Vietnam and Indonesia managed to save wages for future expenditures. (Spar p. 10)  To me it seems that Jeff Ballinger and maybe a few other anti-Nike critics are unfairly assessing Nike even after they made changes to better their contractors abroad.

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5 Responses to Relentless Knock

  1. knr004 says:

    I agree with a lot of what this initial post said, and I think it supports the arguement that the public loves nothing more then to make the big corporations – such as Nike- look like monstrous organziations who act unethically in everything they do in order to be successful. I agree with what Nathan said; that “it seems that Jeff Ballinger and maybe a few other anti-Nike critics are unfairly assesing Nike even after they made changes to better their contractors abroad.” I’m not defending Nike in their unethical behaviors, every organizations has issues with business practice which is why we have such things as an HR department. I just think the media tends to hold grudges against the big corporations. In this instance, even after Nike took responsibility publicly for its labor issues abroad many critics continued to point the finger. Another great example of this is the environmental crisis BP experienced. It was a messy situation, absolutely. But consider how the media would have reacted had it been the same result but a different smaller corporation?

    • Jordi says:

      Is the media holding a grudge? What does that mean? Are they “simply” reporting that citizens or organized groups are concerned? Isn’t that what we want the media to do?

  2. Jordi says:

    I found the argument that Nike or other manufacturers should not pay US wages overseas disingenuous. Who was arguing that they should be the same in Indonesia and the US? No one.

  3. Jordi says:

    What is up with the title. I like the sound of it, poetic, but how does it relate? Who is knocking?

  4. nrz002 says:

    I would not say that the media is holding a grudge. However, from the Nike case it seems that the media is only delivering one side of the story which is from the critics. I would prefer to hear facts rather than a good story. But I do think that thanks to the media, attention and actions were brought to Nike’s unethical international labor practices. I know that critics were not arguing that Indonesian wages should be the same as U.S. wages and just wanted for them to increase it to livable standards. I think Young’s counterargument to critics demanding an increase in worker’s wages was just a little over dramatic to stress the point of why they do not need to be raised. However, I do not understand why they thought it was necessary to compare an Indonesian worker’s wage of barely $1 per day to a U.S. athletic shoe manufacture’s wage of $8 an hour. Why bring this statistic up if critics are not arguing that wages shoe be equal? In my title, I was using the word “knock” by its informal definition which is: to criticize, especially in a carping manner. What I meant by “Relentless Knock” is that Jeff Ballinger and other critics were relentlessly criticizing Nike even after labor issues were addressed.

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