More than a decade ago, shoe giant Nike came under fire for its use of sweatshop labor in the production of its products. Most of the criticism focused on its Indonesian workforce, where workers, largely young women, were forced to labor under harsh conditions and abusive supervisors. In 1997, filmmaker Michael Moore made Nike’s abuses a subject of his film “The Big One,” and met with Nike CEO Phil Knight. Knight explained that the reason his company was using low-wage labor in Indonesia is because “Americans don’t want to make shoes.” Watch it:
In 2001, following protests by labor and human rights advocates, Nike pledged a series of reforms following the revelation that some of its developing world workers were children. But a new investigation conducted by the Associated Press appears to find that poor conditions persist in many of Nike’s factories.
At the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen Group factory in Sukabumi, Indonesia, which makes Converse shoes for Nike, and PT Amara Footwear factory in Jakarta, workers alleged that they are paid ultra-low wages, regularly verbally and physically abused, and even fired for the act of taking sick leave:
The 10,000 mostly female workers at the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen plant make around 50 cents an hour. That’s enough, for food and bunkhouse-type lodging, but little else. Some workers interviewed by the AP in March and April described being hit or scratched in the arm — one man until he bled. Others said they were fired after filing complaints. […] Mira Agustina, 30, said she was fired in 2009 for taking sick leave, even though she produced a doctor’s note. […] At the PT Amara Footwear factory located just outside Jakarta, where another Taiwanese contractor makes Converse shoes, a supervisor ordered six female workers to stand in the blazing sun after they failed to meet their target of completing 60 dozen pairs of shoes on time.
An internal Nike report released to the AP found that “nearly two-thirds of 168 factories making Converse products worldwide fail to meet Nike’s own standards for contract manufacturers.” Meanwhile, in 2010, Nike CEO Mark Parker’s received an 84 percent hike in his annual compensation, raking in $13.1 million, an amount many of the workers in Sukabumi and Jakarta can only dream of.