Nike Publishes Critical Factory Monitoring Report

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(U-WIRE) LEXINGTON, Ky. – Shoe and apparel manufacturer and anti-sweatshop target Nike posted Tuesday on their website the reports of student monitors who visited 32 factories this spring.

The reports delivered a picture of factories that may not match the sweatshops students learned about in American History, but nonetheless are still wracked by problems.

Despite a few self-deprecating parts of the report, Nike has featured the report prominently on their website and has been publicizing the report.

“What these 16 students have done is taken a long hard look at our monitoring process, and the lion’s share of our collegiate licensed product manufacturing sites,” said Dusty Kidd, director of labor practices for Nike.

“They have taught us a lot. We take their observations and recommendations very seriously, and commit to report back what we and the factories have done, in three months.”

The report, divided into three parts for Asia, North America and Latin America, presents an overview of factory conditions and a critique of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ monitoring process for those factories.

Generally, the students found basic health and safety working conditions, such as cleanliness and ventilation, to be positive. The students also found little evidence of underage workers at the factories.

But, students found, workers had little understanding of the right to freedom of association, leading the students to believe that workers may have feared gathering to right any wrongdoings.

Essentially, students said, most workers probably didn’t understand the freedom of association because their homelands didn’t have such concepts integrated into their basic civil rights and the concept was further muddled in translation.

Overtime was also a problem at many factories, and was compounded by irregular working hours, short lunch breaks and no rest breaks.

In one sampling of 25 workers, one student reported six said they had been the victims of physical violence at the factories. While students at some plants said workers felt comfortable addressing grievances, students who visited other factories said workers either were not comfortable addressing grievances or didn’t know how to file grievances.

Students were also concerned that the audits to monitor working conditions at the factories may not have been catching all violations at the plants.

“Currently, (PricewaterhouseCoopers) audits are scheduled with factory management two to three weeks in advance,” the report said. “With such advanced notice, there is a natural concern that factory conditions could be modified or improved just for the day of the audit.”

That natural concern was a big problem for at least one University of Kentucky member of United Students Against Sweatshops, who felt the report was not credible since the visits were announced and all parties involved were either paid by Nike or had transportation and accommodation paid for by the company.

“It seems logical that a factory’s going to clean up if they know someone’s coming,” said Amy Shelton, a Spanish and linguistics junior.

“My mom’s coming to visit me, so I’m definitely going to clean my apartment. If I expected my mom everyday, my apartment would always be clean.”

Carter Adler, a music and Honors senior, said the report confirmed many of his suspicions about the factories, but he was disturbed by the way the report was presented.

“It was critical of the monitoring process but was phrased in a positive way,” he said. “If I write down every item, it’s pretty appalling what’s going on.”

Adler doubts the report will have any real bearing on Nike’s practices, but said he will follow the company and waits for their July 1 response to the report.