News Release

Nike and Sweatshops

SARAH JACOBSON
A coordinating committee member of United Students Against Sweatshops, Jacobson studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She said today: “The decision of the University of Oregon to join the Worker Rights Consortium was made after a year-long process that involved faculty, students and administrators. President Dave Frohnmayer signed onto the WRC only after a three-fourths majority election by students, after the unanimous recommendation by an advisory committee established by the president in the fall and after a vote by the University Senate. CEO of Nike and UO alumnus Phil Knight has responded by pulling $30 million from a development project for the campus’ Autzen Stadium, complaining that he wasn’t consulted in the University decision. Knight cannot pretend to be acting out of shock; rather, this is a tactical and strategic attempt by Nike to influence university administrators and crush the WRC. Knight’s apparent fear of the WRC only demonstrates that Nike has something to hide. Moreover, Knight’s move makes the connections very clear between universities and corporate interests. It’s obvious that the donations he has given — allegedly out of a philanthropic motivation — are clubs that he is attempting to use to bludgeon the University into moving one direction or another.”

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MEDEA BENJAMIN
Founding director of Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights organization that has helped to lead the consumer campaign against Nike sweatshops, Benjamin said today: “Phil Knight’s decision to halt donations to the University of Oregon and Nike’s recent move to end a contract with Brown University are apparently the company’s opening salvo in declaring war against the anti-sweatshop student movement. Since Nike has repeatedly told its critics that it is interested in experimenting with various types of monitoring, it is indeed strange that when the anti-sweatshop students come up with an innovative monitoring system aimed at empowering workers, Nike lashes out at the students and universities working with them.”
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CHARLES KERNAGHAN
Executive director of the National Labor Committee, Kernaghan said today: “In El Salvador young women get paid just 20 cents for every $75 Nike shirt they sew. The women are fired if they get pregnant, refuse to work overtime, or even try to organize to defend their rights. Nike makes 40 percent of its shoes in China, where workers are forced to endure 12 to 14 hour shifts for wages as low as 11 cents an hour…. Knight’s move is a testament to his fear of the truth-test presented by the Worker Rights Consortium — Nike is afraid of opening up its factories to truly independent inspection by local human rights and religious groups. If Knight had nothing to hide, he would have nothing to fear.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167