Labor Group: Nike Not Living up to Promises

ByABC News
May 18, 2001, 2:48 PM

B E A V E R T O N, Ore., May 21 -- Three years ago, Nike chairman Phil Knight stood before the National Press Club and told the world he was so tired of labor-rights groups criticizing the athletic shoe company he founded that he was going to personally make sure conditions improved at Nike factories around the world.

Knight has fallen short of his promises far short, in somecases, according to a 105-page report released by the GlobalExchange.

"During the last three years, Nike has continued to treat thesweatshop issue as a public-relations inconvenience rather than asa serious human rights matter," said Leila Salazar, corporateaccountability director for the San Francisco-based labor-rightsorganization.

Six Promises Made by Knight

Knight discounted the report, and said Nike has done more thanany other corporation in the shoe-and-clothing industry to makesure workers are treated fairly. Knight said, the company haspromoted globalization of its workforce as a way to lift wages inmany countries.

"I think we've made significant strides, and I'm proud of whatthe company's done over the last three years," Knight told TheAssociated Press. "It may take a while longer, but I do think itwill be understood that Nike is a good citizen in all the countriesthat it operates in."

The report by the Global Exchange cited six promises Knight madeduring a May 12, 1998 speech at the National Press Club inWashington, D.C.:

All Nike shoe factories would meet U.S. Occupational Health andSafety Administration indoor air quality standards.

The minimum age would be raised to 18 for Nike shoe factories,16 for clothing factories.

Nike would include nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, infactory monitoring, and the company would make inspection resultspublic.

Nike would expand its worker education program, making freehigh-school equivalency courses available.

A micro-enterprise loan program would be expanded to benefit4,000 families in Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand.