[ National Labor Committee ]   

Nike:  The Anatomy of Exploitation

Listening to Nike, one would think that they are a religious organization whose mission is to travel around the world to help develop poor countries.   Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Though Nike would like us to believe that they just send their garments offshore willy-nilly to be produced by young people with nimble fingers, the reality is nothing of the kind.  Each garment goes offshore with a full engineering time-motion study.

For example, a Nike childrenís sweatshirt with the identification number V167G6N is sent to the Dominican Republic for assembly, accompanied by a detailed engineering study which breaks down the making of the sweatshirt to 22 steps or operations:  Five steps to cut;  11 steps to sew; and 6 steps to label, inspect and pack so it is ready to hang in a retail outlet in the U.S.

Nike and its contractor, H.H.Cutler/VF, assign each operation a time value, breaking the time down to 10,000ths of a second.  This is the science of exploitation.  For example, a worker is permitted just 30 and 3/10ths seconds to sew both shoulders of the sweatshirt.

When you add up the time allowed for all 22 operations, it comes to just 6.6 minutes.  So, with a fully loaded wage of 70 cents an hour in the Dominican Republicís free trade zones, that means the workers earn just 8 cents for each $22.99 Nike childrenís sweatshirt they sew.  Their wages amount to just 3/10ths of one percent of the retail price of the garment.  How is that for a religious organization?

This document proves the enormous exploitation of workers making Nike garments in the developing world.  But it also proves that it would be easy for Nike to raise the wages of these workers--so they could climb out of misery and at least into poverty--and do so with no real impact on the cost of the garment.  If Nike were to double the wages, there would then be just 16 cents of labor in a shirt, which is still only 7/10ths of one percent of the retail price.

Surely Nike could afford that.

How about it Mr. Knight--Will you Just Do The Right Thing?

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