It was 13 years ago when Phil Knight announced that Nike was going to require all of its contract factories to follow a more stringent set of labor practices. These new standards included a higher minimum worker age, a lower amount of maximum weekly hours, and adhering to OSHA clean air standards, among others. Nike’s promises did a lot to quiet its critics but have failed to do much else. The large-scale anti-Nike protests have stopped for the most part but Nike’s labor abuses have not.
As recently as July 2011, there have been reports that workers in Nike’s Indonesian factories are being abused by their managers and Nike itself has even come out and said that two thirds of their factories in China do not meet the standards they proclaimed in 1998. The biggest criticism of Nike in the 1990s, extremely low worker wages, was never even addressed in Nike’s initial promises about worker welfare and the company’s profits continue to soar. At least with the other issues Nike pretended to care and that it would take action.
It makes me wonder what has happened to all of Nike’s critics of the 90s. Despite Nike’s promises, conditions in its factories have scarcely improved but nobody seems to care anymore. Why is it suddenly okay for Nike to take advantage of its workers overseas? As we saw in the 90s, Nike is only going to make an effort to improve the lives of its workers when there abuses affect their wallet. The public and the government need to remind Nike that exploitation of labor in the developing world is not okay and hit them where it hurts to make sure they get the message.