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The Almighty Buck

Nike: Just Don't Do It 355

Daruka Krishna Das writes "Jonah Peretti turned Nike's corporate creativity against itself in a stand against third-world exploitation labor. Peretti's protest made use of the swoosh brand's Nike iD Web site, which allows customers to "build your own" sneaker, complete with a word of your choice, or "iD," printed on the side. For his iD, Peretti selected "sweatshop," which generated the e-mail exchange archived on Jockbeat's Web site here."
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Nike: Just Don't Do It

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  • That he planned on using his Nikes so much that he could have been a sweat manufacturer, making enough to sell off. Hence, a "sweat shop".

    Might have fooled the suits long enough to allow the order.

  • In a sane world, our trade policy would have the goal of helping local people in developing nations set up their own industries, instead of helping the owners of Nike increase their profits.

    Our government doesn't touch Nike's corporate decisions. That's a private sector thing there bud not a government problem.

  • Not only that, but picking "sweat" on one shoe and "shop" on the other results in the following error, as does "child"/"labor" but not "child"/"labour" (for those of us who spell correctly) or "cheap"/"labor":

    iD DECLINED -- Create your iD using letters, numbers and/or spaces. Try a different iD.

    So what if I'm an althetic teenaged girl wanting to convey my two favorite hobbies on my shoes? An expecting mother, perhaps? Bah!


  • don't do it. Seriously. Force yourself to hold it until your 10 hour day is up. No way, no how are you to get up from your desk. You must sit there for hours, doing the same repetitive motions over and over.

    Want a drink of water? Yeah right.

    You are also not allowed to talk to your co-workers. No chatting on the phone, even if it is a call from your mom saying your dad just died.
    You are expected to be at work at all times. You are not allowed any time off for any reason. Miss one day and you are fired.

    Think I am making this up? This is just a small sample of what it is like to work in a sweatshop.

    *Now* please call me a liberal and tell me I am full of shit.
  • So Nike decides not to make shoes with specific messages. So what? They're not a common carrier, or an ISP - they're a shoe maker, with their own fashion sense, and they have a brand to protect.

    If you don't like the shoes Nike will make for you, or allow you to make, buy from another company.

    Unless, of course, your real reason to "culture-jam" Nike is to get your name in print...

  • A company thata relative of mine works at operates several factories in China. They pay a multiple of the prevailing local wage -- in fact, the Chinese government actually prevents them from paying more. I wonder how often that happens?

    - - - - -
  • A company that a relative of mine works at operates several factories in China. They pay a multiple of the prevailing local wage -- in fact, the Chinese government actually prevents them from paying more. I wonder how often that happens?

    - - - - -
  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @01:42PM (#425792) Homepage
    I recommend that you investigate the actual history of child labor laws. They were first implemented at the behest of English factory owners who wanted to end the practice but could not do so voluntarily as long as it remained legal for their competition to exploit child labor.

    Holding a "candle to the dark" would consist of employing adults who are past school age to work at wages which would allow them to send their children to school. That isn't happening.

    And absent multinational labor, local economies exist for local markets.

  • Stop to think for a minute. Why are these children working for Nike? Surely their parents would rather have them playing in the yard or going to school. There is quite a simple answer these childeren work for nike because their parents cannot provide for them and they would otherwise starve.

    Why can't their parents earn enough to feed them (working at Nike or otherwise)? Their countries are overpopulated, have no infrustructure, and the population is completely unskilled and uneducated; hence the amazingly low price of labor. Just by being there, Nike is improving conditions for the simple fact that they need an infrustructure to move shoes from the factories to the ports. The Nike factories are pumping american money into the local economy through payroll, supplies, and factory costs. Hell, globalization as a form of third-world aid seems to be the only kind that does any good!

    People either chose to work for Nike of their own free will or are forced to work by their governments. If by their own free will then they obviously thought that working for Nike, no matter how seemingly horrible, provides them a lifestyle that is better than it was beforehand; therefore Nike is improving their life while it provides you shoes. If their government is forcing them to work at Nike then doesn't it seem more prudent to focus efforts on changing the governments to a more free society rather than attacking Nike who if they closed shop would just be replaced by someone else?

    I personally challenge those people who believe that the third world is exploited by american corporations to fly to one of these third world countries and see how much worse off the people who don't work for Nike are. You cannot comment on the living conditions of these workers without seeing the living conditions of their neighbors who aren't working at Nike. I spent 3 months in Haiti, and let me tell you these people would give anything for the chance to work 18 hours a day and put food on the table.

    -- Greg
  • by binarybits ( 11068 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @01:47PM (#425795) Homepage
    Well, I might ask what's served by defending them for it.

    Because they're improving the lives of the poor? What's not to defend? Yes, they don't provide American-quality wages, but they are providing jobs that are better than what was there before. No matter how greedy and evil the companies themselves are, this is a Good Thing. Bad jobs is better than no jobs.

    The improvement of working conditions in the US had nothing to do with Upton Sinclair and little to do with labor unions or labor laws. The biggest driver of increasing wages was competition for labor-- there were more jobs than workers, and so wages rose.

    The fundamental cause of this is accumulation of capital-- nations with large capital stocks and good infrastructure will tend to pay higher wages because their workers can produce more. Labor unions and labor laws at best provide short-term improvement, and do nothing to change the underlying economics. Had a $5/hour minimum wage been instituted in 1900, it would have destroyed the US economy. Wages are driven up by market forces, not government intervention.

    So while overseas conditions seem repugnant to us, bellyaching about it isn't going to improve things. What those people need is jobs-- even bad jobs are a good start compared with no jobs at all. As as more factories are opened, competition for labor will begin to drive up wages, as happened in Taiwan and South Korea.

    Are corporations greedy and profit-seeking? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that they are necessarily harmful.

    Please keep firmly in mind that you are looking at the world from the perspective of the richest nation on Earth. We are privileged to be at the pinnacle of the world economy, getting nice fat paychecks for highly technical work, short hours, and extremely generous benefits. Obviously the conditions of poor workers is appalling from our perspective.

    But what you have to keep firmly in mind is: what's good for those workers? The fact that their wages seem pitifully low to us doesn't necessarily mean that those workers are being treated unfairly. It might be that if forced to raise wages, corporations would be unable to turn a profit and would leave those countries.

    Don't let your moral revulsion cloud your judgement. Pursuing policies that eliminate sweatshops may just kick third world workers into even deeper poverty. Focusing on the evilness of the corporations deflects attention from what really matters-- the interests of the poor. If sweatshops are so terrible, what do you propose to do about it? And how do you prevent your policy from simply causing those corporations from closing up shop and making the poor even poorer?
  • by DaSyonic ( 238637 ) <DaSyonic@y[ ] ['aho' in gap]> on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:45AM (#425796) Homepage
    I bought from NikeID, and my ID is of course, Linux. Lots of pictures and a review are here []
  • Read some history of the industrial revolution. Every society that is currently in the "first world" went through a process of exploiting children, workers, and the environment. The transfer from third to first world involves some pain and suffering. America went through it about a century a go, england and the rest of europe anywhere between 1850 and today depending on how far east you go. If you want people to live like americans or europeans do now, you have to go through this process, you cant skip over it, at least, no country has yet successfully done so. The best way to improve the labor conditions in foriegn countries is to support free trade. The more buisnesses move into foriegn countries, the more money flows into them, and by extension to the people working there. The living standards of someone who works in a sweatshop are higher than those of somone who has no job at all. Ultimately the markets for labor will become constrained in these countries and wages will begin to rise. To go from 25-30% unemployment to 10 % doesnt put much pressure on wages, but going from 10 to 5 % does start to put pressure for wages to rise. Now youve got all these factories sitting around, it costs alot of money to build a factory, at first its cheaper to pay the higher wages, living standards continue to go up, skilled labor and education starts to proliferate. Dont tell me that this will never happen because it has already, this is the process america went through, this is the process europe went through, it will happen to third world countries. Brazil, Mexico, china and india are all on the brink of becoming fully industrialized. Within 50 years they will be first world countries. Industrialization takes centuries, be patient

  • I can't speak to your specific example, but I don't buy the economic argument. The concept of comparative advantage is central and universally accepted in economic circles-- producing labor-intensive goods in low-wage areas and exporting them to high-wage areas benefits both countries.

    I suspect that to fully hash out the economic argument here would take much longer than either of us have time for, but the basic point is that trade is always reciprocal-- that every dollar spent to hire cheap foreign labor comes back to the US to purchase American goods. And if it were true that the value of the labor sold were (from the perspective of the poor country) less than the value of the goods imported, the prices of the two would be different in the local market.

    I don't have a clear idea of what your argument is, so I can't really address it more specifically than that. If you want to explain it in more detail in email, I'd be interested in discussing it further.
  • by Anal Surprise ( 178723 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @01:47PM (#425803)
    Nike made a tactical error by refusing this guy's request. When they said no, he gets a juicy e-mail exchange where he gets to needle them over this issue, and everyone's reading it.

    Now, if Nike had made the shoes, he'd have some shoes that said "sweatshop". Big Fucking Deal. He could show them to his friends. Ooh. Or he could put pictures on a webpage, which would leave us saying "photoshop". Instead, they played right into his hands.

    By Just Doing It (tm), Nike would win on several fronts. They'd deprive this guy of ammo. They'd appear hip and postmodern. Their personalization scheme would feel more "free". All while selling sweatshop-produced shoes for $100+/pair.

    I just hope their marketing idiots don't figure this out.
  • OK, fine, asshole, what do you propose? That we just let people starve because we don't want to feel bad that someone might be making less money than us? I'm not saying that Nike should get a medal for a great deed of humanitarianism, but your blind emotionalism doesn't change the fact that people in sweatshops *is* an improvement over people starving on the streets.

    There are *still* millions of people who are so poor that they can't even afford the basic necessities. If a sweatshop opened in one of those countries and provided some of them with work, would you denounce them for "enslaving" them? Is it better to let people starve than to give them crappy jobs?
  • The problem is that Nike now has a vested interest in making sure that things don't get better.

    Sure they do. But in most cases they can't. In most cases where they "shop around" for lower wages, it's because competition has driven up wages and working conditions in the previous country.

    If they can get the governments in those countries to hold down wages by force, that's absolutely a bad thing, but I see no reason to believe that's the norm. And if that's the case, it's government corruption-- not sweatshops per se-- that we should be criticizing.

    You mentioned child labor laws-- this is a good example of letting the perfect being the enemy of the good. In wealthy Western countries, it's perfectly reasonable to demand children not work. But if you're talking about a country where children have to work to stay alive, it's far from clear that banning it is a good thing. Would I like a world in which no child had to work? Absolutely. But I'm not going to condemn children to even deeper poverty so wealthy Americans can soothe their consciences.

    Your claim is essentially that it is better to be a good slaveholder than to oppose slavery.

    No, my claim is that it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Sweatshop owners might be motivated by greed, but as a side effect they are improving conditions in the third world. I'd love it if conditions improved, but the fact that conditions are poor doesn't justify taking the jobs away.

    The question isn't whether sweatshops meet American labor standards. If that were the requirement, we would condemn third-world workers to poverty in perpetuity. The question is whether sweatshops on net help or harm the poor. I don't see how you can claim that they hurt them. Again, poverty existed long before the greedy corporations arrived on the scene. It's absurd to blame them for it. Bad jobs at lousy wages is better than no job at all, yet sweatshop activists seem to believe that until coroporations are willing to pay a "living wage" the third-world poor shouldn't be allowed to have any jobs at all. I think that's a cruel and destructive policy.
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @01:49PM (#425812) Homepage Journal

    So download the page and edit the HTML to expand the field limit back to 12 characters. Fix the <FORM> tag to point to the fully qualified URL at Nike. Then load the locally edited page into your browser, fill it out, and click submit. If their server admins fell into the "trusted client" trap, it'll work.

    Heck, you could theoretically expand the input limit to whatever size you want; certainly large enough to send them the DeCSS code :-).


  • Holding a "candle to the dark" would consist of employing adults who are past school age to work at wages which would allow them to send their children to school. That isn't happening.

    The question is: are those workers better off with those jobs than without them? You can focus all you want on whether the improvement is good enough, but if the alternative is starvation and poverty, I don't see what basis you have to complain. Yes, it would be great if all workers could make enough to send their children to school. But if you're talking about a country where many parents can't even *feed* their children enough, I don't see what's served by denouncing the only chance many of those workers have to feed their families.

    Again, the question is: are workers better off with or without sweatshops? Giving everyone ideal jobs is not on the table. If you are going to denounce sweatshops, what's your alternative?
  • "SWETSHOP" # Ok, we need lowercase to

    "CHILDLBR" # unfuck the lameness filter

    "KATHYLEE" # to let this post get through.

    "KIDWORK" # I find it worth posting, and

    "$.05/hr" # the caps are to make sure

    "LBRUNION" # the the "ell" character shows.

  • If I have to choose between a sweatshop and starvation, that really isn't much of a choice, now, is it?

    Sure beats the choice between starvation and starvation.

    -- Greg
  • It would take a fairly long discussion to explain the economics of comparative advantage. Here's the basic argument.

    Every dollar worth of shoes that gets shipped out of the local economy means one dollar that comes into the local economy. That dollar will be spent by *someone* in exchange for American goods and services.

    So, the question is, does the value of the labor that went into the shoes outweigh the value of the goods and services that got purchased with those wages? More specifically, let's suppose that from the perspective of the poor country the labor was *more* valuable than the American goods and services.

    If this were the case, then the market price for goods produced with local labor would be lower than equivalently-valued goods from abroad. And so the locals would use their dollars to bid up the price of the local products, and the price of overseas goods and services would drop until they were equally valued.

    Trade benefits both countries in a transaction. In order to convince third-world workers to work for them, they must offer more value to them than is available in local jobs. And that extra value represents a net inflow of resources to the country, counterbalancing the loss of labor. So the economy as a whole benefits from the trade.

    This is a basic premise of economics, which even extremely liberal economists would agree with. Free trade doesn't benefit one country at the expense of the other. By specialization and comparative advantage, both economies benefit.
  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @01:56PM (#425829) Homepage
    It's amazing how many times on Slashdot I will read a post which completely misreads the definition of a corporation as an individual. Cluestick: It's not.

    The lawmakers are not completely stupid. It's not corporations that are criminaly liable but their officers - as it should be. You can't punish a corporation by putting it in prison and you're not really punishing the people really responsible for the crime if you "kill" it. If Nike has committed any criminal offence - including any that deserves the death penalty, it's the people who are responsible for making those decisions who should face the jail time/death penalty. You don't want them to get away scot-free do you? If the United States laws recognize what Nike has done in terms of child labor abuse, I want our government to go after the executives who knew of this and put them in prison besides fining the company.

    "Executing" the company means the people who are actually responsible for the crimes get away scot-free (relatively). Corporate charters only absolve the owners of FINANCIAL LIABILITY. Hiding behind the identity of a corporation DOES NOT allow them to get away from CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

    Repeat after me: Corporations are treated as individuals only as far as non-criminal rights and responsibilities are concerned.

  • Of course they are. So is every business in America. That's not the issue.

    The questions is: do sweatshops hurt or harm third-world workers? Are they worse off than they were before the sweatshop opened?

    Again, corporations didn't create poverty. It was already there long before they came on the scene. They are improving conditions, not because they care about the poor, but simply as a side effect of their greedy, ruthless, pursuit of profits. But they are improving conditions nonetheless. And to condemn improvement in the lives of the poor simply because corporations make money off is absurd. I am not willing to condemn the third world poor to perpetual poverty simply to soothe the consceinces of wealthy Americans. Sweatshops might look cruel and inhumane to us, but for millions of starving peasants it's a ticket out of poverty. What right do you have to tell that peasant he can't have that job because you don't think his wages are high enough?
  • What I object to is Nike being allowed (by either the US or foriegn contries) to pay people less than a living wage for the area they live in, or to allow a manifestly unsafe work environment.

    Even if this leads to those people losing their jobs? The greater the profits of sweatshops, the more that will be built, and the sooner wages will be driven up by competition. It's fine to say that you want wages to be at a certain level. But are you willing to take the risk that companies will simply refuse to operate in that country at all, leaving those people destitute?

  • If Nike walked away with it's $0.05 an hour jobs, their workers would either go back to begging in the streets from other companies' $0.05 an hour employees, or go back to the local $0.01 an hour jobs.

    Either way you're not doing them a favor.

  • They can charge it because people are willing to pay it. There *are* shoes available for $10. People choose to buy Nikes at the higher price because for whatever reason they feel it's worth it. I'm not sure I see what's immoral about it.
  • by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2001 @01:11PM (#425838)
    Sorry, they have a size limit. You could do this (maybe):

    TO US

    Imagine a basketball team with those shoes!!!

  • It must suck for these people working in these sweatshops to be making the highest real wages in their country.

    Wasn't it Nike who had a (subcontracted) factory of imprisoned illegal immigrant slaves in the US a couple of years ago? I'd be surprised if they were earning more than Bill Gates.

    But in general, don't rely on "Market forces" in very poor countries to ensure that people like Nike aren't screwing their workers. In many places, there's very little employment law, not much advice or assistance available for workers, trade unions are often illegal, and it's dead easy for a megacorporation to bully their workers senseless (possibly through the police). Sure, in an information-rich, human-rights-guaranteeing society, you can say "Well if the wages/conditions were so bad the workers would just walk away." A lot of the developing world doesn't work like that.

  • Our government doesn't touch Nike's corporate decisions. That's a private sector thing there bud not a government problem.
    Of course it does. Like all corporations, Nike exists at all because of an act of government. Then our government makes trade policy decisions that allow this "artificial person" created by U.S. law to have overseas subsidiaries and employ non-U.S. citizens. Then trade policy - tariffs, regulations, etcetera - are set up in such a way as to favor these large corporations.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • The concept of comparative advantage is frankly in some suspense. Yes, it was promalgate by Ricards, and the more formulaic Chicago and Austrian school types cite it (sometimes trying to make it more dynamic in order to make it fit a little less poorly with reality), but it relies on a naive theory of money and omits a lot of costs. It was rejected by Keynes and even some Austrian economists.

    Short picture: if goods can be relocated and labor cannot, then capital will move the goods to where they can get optimal returns, yet move production to where costs are minimal. Differences in mobility and the cost of mobility throw out the benefits subsumed under the comparative advantage model.

  • What's happening to developing countries now isn't really the same as what happened during the Industrial Revolution, though. Europe and America weren't being economically colonized by other nations, i.e., money made in the U.S. typically stayed in the U.S (unless it was re-invested in foreign markets.) thereby generating tax revenue for the government, and allowing the government to subsidize necessary infrastructure like railroads and canals. Also, most of the economic policies of both Europe and America were extremely protectionist.

    This is in stark contrast to what is happening to, say, the Philippines, which is a country that has probably been most true to the idea of laissez-faire capitalism of all Asian developing countries. The people who make the most money in Philippines are typically not Pilipino--therefore there are very, very few wealthy Pilipinos who can afford to invest. The government gets pretty much nothing from multinational corporations (unless you count the paltry bribes to corrupt officials), so there's no hope of improving infrastructure. The indigenous industries are barely subsistent, because the aforementioned elite would never dare to invest in them, and because the infrastructure is so bad. When you compare the progress of the Philippines to its nearest neighbors, I think it makes a good case against opening up trade barriers. It's ironic that you mention China to buttress you're argument for free trade--they probably have the most protectionist economic policies around! And it is probably the only reason they've managed to industrialize.

  • For one thing, mandating labor standards is a different thing from opposing trade a priori. When you claim a transaction "benefits both countries," you are doing a whole lot of hand-waving. It benefits *specific groups and blocs of interests* on both sides of the transaction (including, it is true, the consumer market in the more expensive/developed trade partner.) It does not necessarily benefit the local workers that the local factory owners (who may actually live in Miami) can enjoy a profit.

    All these models, of course, assume Pac-Man like producer/laborers who do not have to do with local inflation, resource competition, and the increased unattractiveness of local markets in this sort of environment. Nobel economics prize winner Amartya Sen's work "Rational Fools" is the most thorough debunking of these omissions.

  • Doh!

    Sorry about the looser / loser thing. I am taking Japanese class and stuck in the mindset, well, in their words are 'spelled' in their sylabic character _exactly_ how they sound. Odd how lose's long o sounds longer than the 'oo' in loose.

    Well, that was too far off topic. I thought I had to explain my brain fart.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I read lots of people talking about the evils of sweatshops and how these people should be payed more, for many ethical and economical reasons. What I don't hear is anyone talking about doing anything about it. Me, I sponser a kid named Nuttapong Kilawong in Thailand. His family is very poor, but because I send $28 a month, he can go to school instead of work everyday. Granted, one kid at a time is only a little bit, but it's something. So, what are you gonna do about the problem of sweatshops?
  • If I have to choose between a sweatshop and starvation, that really isn't much of a choice, now, is it?

    No it's not, which means it's a good thing that the sweatshop is there. If you were in fact in that situation, and the sweatshop was removed by well-meaning liberals, then your only choice would be starvation.

  • Outside of those situations, child labor is not bad, per se because it is often times better than the alternatives.
    I can't really criticize what a person or family does to survive, when survival is really in question -- be it child labor, growing coca, or stealing. It's a bad situation with no good solutions, and I'm priviledged and utterly insulated so I shouldn't make judgements on them.

    However, just considering the practical aspects, child labor doesn't really help poor people. The children make very small wages, in part because they really aren't very productive. They are young and weak and unskilled. Studies have shown that the money lost by sending a child to school is regained in full and then some by the increased skill they will have later in life. Simply being literate and capable of doing math is a tremendous benefit to even an unskilled laborer.

    Of course, future wages don't matter if you don't have enough foot now, and if your children's growth is being stunted now, and if one of them will die of a curable disease because you are poor now.

    So I can't blame a parent that sends their child to work. But I think child labor is still bad, it's just the unfortunate -- no, the unjust situation that all alternatives are bad. That child labor is sometimes the best alternative doesn't mean that we, as a society, as a species are any less morally implicated.

  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:46AM (#425867) Homepage Journal
    Don't you think it's a bit ironic that this guy was ordering a pair of supposedly sweatshop manufactured shoes, for the purpose of calling attention to the fact that they were manufactured in a sweatshop?

    It's sorta like wearing a leather jacket with stitched on letters that say "a cow was killed so I could wear this". ;-)

  • order it with "" written on it.....

    (you need a chinese text translator, also know how to read chinese would help, if you can't read chinese, try

  • by Raptor CK ( 10482 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:46AM (#425869) Journal
    Not really a plug, but if you want custom shoes without giving your money to Nike so they can shortchange some kids overseas, try these guys.

    Customatix []

    Granted, they may be doing the same thing for all I know, but at least there are other options.

  • I grew up in a third-world country so I believe I'm qualified to comment on this. I'm not aware of the actual labor practices Nike practices so I'm not commenting on Nike in particular but about child labor in general.

    Don't get me wrong. I believe that all children should be in school, sheltered and with the opportunity to learn so that they can grow up to be contributors to society at large.

    However, the reality of the situation is that in several third-world countries there is rampant poverty. The governments in those countries are not able to provide free education and many times, even if they do, many people can't afford to send their children there because they still need to pay for food and clothing and shelter and the parents can just not afford to do so. This is not an exaggeration. People actually do live like this and I have seen this myself.

    From the perspective of the children being employed, this is many times the best thing that could have happened to them. The children who work there don't greet the closing of the factories with jubiliation - to them it doesn't mean being able to go to school - to them it means that their family will go hungry.

    None of this defends child labor practices where the children are unfairly exploited - that is not what I'm defending here. Outside of those situations, child labor is not bad, per se because it is often times better than the alternatives.
  • I'm glad to see consumerism continues unhindered in the innocence of your soul. Thank God for TV.

    Let's hear it for the new colors, people! I hope Fox News covers this important new development in foot-related fashion.

  • The Australian-based NikeWatch [] campaign. (Which I do web support for.)

    This provides some solid information.


  • Then I guess it's a little disingenuous of them to tout their dedication to "about freedom to choose and freedom to express who you are," isn't it.

    So either they're censors or hypocrites. Oh, wait, they're both.

  • Ok, let me try to clarify this.

    There's a chance that Customatix does the same exact thing. However, there's also a chance that they *don't* underpay children. This is a small company. Perhaps they can't expand out to that. Perhaps most of the work is done by machines, and the rest by decently paid workers. I don't know.

    I wasn't trying to get the flames going, I was hoping that maybe someone with a bit more knowledge would come up with more information, so that maybe we can get the same quality goods without patronizing a company that doesn't seem to give a damn about their employees.

    Of course, if that was flamebait (previous moderation on the parent), I would like to see what would happen if I were to *try* to piss you guys off. More crack for the moderators, anyone?

  • by don_carnage ( 145494 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:48AM (#425883) Homepage
    I wonder if the WAPI would come after me if I ordered a pair that said "Sucks"...

  • I hear there's an 8 letter limit now.

    So you'd want:


    Or something like that.

  • by PopeAlien ( 164869 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:48AM (#425885) Homepage Journal
    Jonah should have ordered bliss shoes []..

    In Nike's world 'Sweatshop' *IS* an innapropriate slang term.. They prefer '3rd world employment opportunity'.. try fitting *THAT* on the side of your shoe..

  • by Ian Wolf ( 171633 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:48AM (#425886) Homepage
    I'm surprised they didn't reject your request. Everyone knows that Open Source (namely Linux) at least in the eyes of Microsoft is un-american.

    You need to get an interview at MS and where those sneakers.

  • Hmmmm...what about the simple solution of leaving the factories there, NOT hiring children, NOT beating or intimidating people, paying them a fair wage for their efforts, and letting them work a NORMAL workday instead of 14-16 hr shifts.

    The question isn't what's wrong with it. The question is: how are you going to get Nike to do it? I don't think you can.

    If you were to mandate a minimum wage, maximum hours, no child labor, etc, the reaction would be very simple-- they'd close up their third-world factories and move back to the US. What's the point of enduring poor infrastructure, unstable government, poorly skilled workforce, long shipping costs, etc when there's no cost advantage?

    I'm not claiming that this calculation is a good thing, but that's what would happen. Putting a factory in the third world isn't cheap. Corporations won't do it unless they stand to make a profit from it. If you take away the few advantages the third world has (primarily low wages) you take away any possibility of those workers competing and condemn them to perpetual joblessness.

    Are corporations greedy and ruthless? Perhaps, but so what? No law or boycott is going to change that. The question is: what's good for workers? If we make life miserable for corporations that run sweatshops, are they going to improve their factories, or are they simply going to pack up and go elsewhere where the infrastructure and education is better?

    Imagine your child dies in some shoe press after a backbreaking 10 hr shift - would you really understand some chubby well paid American saying,

    For every child who dies in this manner, there are dozens who die on the streets from malnutrition and lack of medicine. Sweatshops, no matter how distasteful to us, are the first step toward alleviating their suffering. I'll turn the example around on you: if someone's child is on the verge of starvation, are you going to tell him "sorry, you can't work in that sweatshop because they make you work long hours and don't pay enough."

    You act like everything was rosy until the evil sweatshop came in and made all those children work. Children were dying from poverty long before Nike came on the scene. Even granting that they could and should drastically improve their facilities, the simple fact is that they *are* better off than they were before. Given that Nike is in it for profit, not the interests of its workers, what's served by criticizing them for providing jobs for poor people?
  • After finishing upon reading Mr. Peretti's emails to Nike, I decided to pursue the same mission. Upon arriving Nike's website, it was easy to navigate to the build your own shoe section. I customized my running shoe and was ready to enter "sweatshop" in the iD box. "Sweatshop" was immediately rejected on the website. It didn't take a series of emails like it did for Mr. Peretti. Since the incident Nike came across with Mr. Peretti, Nike has limited the character limit to 8. Notice, "sweatshop" is 9 characters and would not even fit. I then entered the word "swetshop" and it was declined! I was very surprised. The word was even mispelled. To make sure it wasn't a bug, i entered "swetposh" and it accepted the iD. I find this behavior very peculiar. Nike must be really embarassed over the amount of sweatshops it owns. They will do anything to protect their Evil Empire!
  • I like to read what my opponents have to say. It's a good way to keep an active mind and not doze off. But I had to stop after reading the quote below. To summarize, he says

    "Stop bothering me with reality! I don't want to think about it. I want to dream about paradise!!"

    I got an e-mail today that included the same question I have heard a thousand times, "If Nike weren't in Indonesia, what else would those people be doing?" I guess the rhetorical response I posted a few days ago to address this question didn't quite satisfy everyone. I wondered why not? I also wondered why people always tend to ask this question with a "worst case scenario" approach. "If they didn't have those jobs they would be starving." Is it possible to consider a scenario that sees the possibilities of a better world and not a worse one? Is it possible to dream? [Is it possible to give a real answer to a real question?] Isn't this what the human spirit is all about?

    It dawned on me that perhaps it is necessary to invite people to do this. Perhaps it is as simple as that; asking people to imagine a world where all human beings live together harmoniously. And once they have imagined it, ask them to take it a step further and act on it. We can do it. We can change the world! It is only a matter of asking a different set of questions and then working to find the answers to them. The first thing that must happen is the discarding of the question that does nothing to improve the situation of our brothers and sisters here.

    "If Nike weren't there, what else would those people be doing?"

    Hear me now... this question will no longer be asked. It limits the possibilities. It limits our ability to dream. It limits our commitment to establishing a world where all persons live freely and are granted the dignity that is their human birthright. How do we begin to change this situation?

  • Ganked from


    "What else would those people be doing?"

    "What else would those people be doing?" I have been asked this question so many times. It has almost become the litmus test for whether or not what we are doing here has any meaning. I know that there are a few people who ask the question with genuine concern for the workers. "If they weren't doing this, would they be able to survive? Would they be OK? I'd be worried about them."

    Then there are the majority of people that ask the question, "What else would those people be doing?" These are the people who want to feel OK about actively or passively contributing to the horror that is the workers' daily reality. They ask the question meaning, "Hey, those people are desperate, they should be happy they have those jobs. If they weren't doing this they would be starving, so they should feel lucky that they are making the little they are making from Nike." My gut reaction when I hear this is to want grab them by the collar and say "You self-righteous, privileged, #$%@! Is there a heart beating in that chest of yours?" To these people, if the question "What else would those people be doing?" is not answered, it justifies the exploitation in some warped way.

    To be very honest, I do not know what the workers would be doing if they weren't working for Nike. How many of us would be able to answer that question for ourselves let alone thousands of people? What would you be doing if you weren't at your current job? There are a lot of factors to figure in aren't there? What would happen to the workers if Nike did not provide these jobs? Again, I do not know. But I do know what would not happen to them.

    * They would not be working 10-15 hour days and not making enough to eat.
    * They would not be screamed at and humiliated when they weren't meeting their production quota.
    * They would not be forced to work overtime.
    * They would not be threatened verbally or physically for trying to form unions.
    * They would not have healthcare plans that do not meet their basic medical needs.
    * They would not work 48-hour shifts when production quotas were high during American holiday seasons.
    * They would not have their water supply polluted by factory waste.
    * They would not have their once fertile farmland covered by factories.
    * They would not be at the mercy of American companies that worked hand and hand with one of the most brutal military dictatorships in history.
    * They would not have their economy dominated by foreigners that want to exploit their current situation and keep them oppressed for financial gain.
    * They would not be reduced to cogs in the machine that feeds American greed and consumption.
    * They would not be making American athletes and coaches rich from their sweat.
    * They would not be helping to maximize American shareholder's profits.
    * They would not have their hope taken away.
    * They would not be dehumanized.
    What else would they be doing? Once again, I'm not sure. Do I have to be? Most likely they would be poor and desperate, much like their reality now. They give so much to us in America. They give their hearts, their lives, their sweat, so we can be rich, in-style, comfortable, better athletes... They give us all of these things. But it isn't enough, we want more, we want to exploit them AND not feel guilty about it. So we smugly ask the question "If you weren't working this hard to serve our selfish wants what else would you poor, dirty, uneducated Indonesians be doing?" In asking this question we take from them the one thing they have left, their dignity.
  • unfortunately, not nearly enough for "All your base are belong to us"


    All your children are belong to us.


  • Now I'm an asshole because I believe people should be treated fairly?

    No, you're an asshole because you use emotionally loaded terms and examples designed more to ridicule me than to make a real point. And "unfuckingbelievable" doesn't seem to me like a respectful response.

    What I PROPOSE is a living wage for people working their assess off so you/he/she can have all the newest/latest/most expensive brandnames plastered all over your bodies.

    And how do you propose to accomplish that? You're just going to mandate it by government fiat? That's not likely to work. Although since you seem more interested in beltling me than seriously discussing the issue, I don't expect you to understand this.

    Maybe you ought first do some research into the REAL conditions these people are working under, and how much money they receive for this work - and how that money translates in their economy.

    Did you even read my post? The question isn't whether they make "enough" money. The issue is whether they make more money than they would without the sweatshop.

    If you cannot see why these practices are unethical and undesirable you must be wearing blinders.

    And if you can't see that the world cannot be made over by government fiat, you should study some economics.
  • First, where else would they go? Nike has to make shoes, it is their job. If they don't do that, they go out of business and default on all their sponsorship contracts. If people won't buy shoes made by workers earning a living wage, they are not a viable product and don't deserve to be produced. But I don't think that will happen. Like I said, Nike might have to raise prices, or pay sports figures less for endorsments, but they will still stay in business.

    What would be bad for them is not all shoe companies had to operate on an even footing--if they were held to higher standards than other companies--that is why we need laws and governments for this sort of thing, rather than relying on the goodwill of individual companies.

    Too many people don't pay attention in economics class, and all they get out is "humans are rational, self interested parties." This is a questionable hypothesis to begin with, largely misunderstood, and ignores the more important thesis "market forces drive a free market economy". By manipulating those market forces, it is possible (within limits) to control a "free market" economy. Depending on the means and the ends, such manipulations can be monopolistic behavior or collusion (bad), other times it is optimization, and good.

    Neither are particularly related to Soviet socailims where the market was driven by government quotas, not supply and demand.
  • It's always highly suspicious when people are fighting for some supposed victims, and you NEVER GET TO HEAR from the "victims" themselves.

    The only people raising this issue are rich westerners. The workers themselves are never asked. Think about why that could be.
  • My alternatives are either a. wages that allow people who are producing for international markets to also act as consumers in those markets, or b. that the resources of land, labor, and energy be dedicated to local markets, so that they can afford to buy the goods they produce and sell them within their communities. The internationalization of labor (which allows capital to move across borders, but not people) means that the cheapness of local productivity benefits the multinational, and the good which are the product benefit the target markets of the multinational: the multinationals (or the contractors who serve it) are able to buy up resources and infrastructure to make it impossible to maintain a local economy. Mexico is a good example of this: certain regions have kept artisan industry (not crafts, but things like household goods, dental equipment, small mechanical goods) thriving, and these regions have less real poverty than maquiladora regions. I would prefer to stay in the Yucatan rather than Juarez or Tamalipas any day.
  • qualifies as a hack - and I'm glad to read that MIT students still believe in social engineering.
  • by ndfa ( 71139 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:52AM (#425917)
    Heres a good picture [] of a nice Nike related T-shirt that may interest some of you!

    someone provide mirrors for the pic please!
  • There are probably many forms of sarcasm... I'm sure he didn't really make that request except to attack Nike and its' policy of using cheap sweatshop labor.

    I'm also pretty sure he didn't send a donation. :)

    Tell me what makes you so afraid
    Of all those people you say you hate

  • Neither laws nor unions are the primary driver of increased wages. Rather, wages are increased as a result of competition between employers for workers.

    Don't believe me? The local McDonalds pays $7/hour. Explain to me how either the government or organized labor caused that to be higher then the minimum wage. If it happens here in the US, what makes you think it's any different overseas?
  • Won't market forces deal with this evenutally? The problem seems to be that the 'sweatshop' jobs are coveted for their comparatively high income levels and low availability. As more companies do this, the dependance on any one 'sweatshop' will decrease, meaning people will have the option of changing jobs, which means the really bad employers won't be able to hire people as readily and will have to improve their conditions?

    Time to enter reality - the are no market "forces". This is one of those stupid metaphors the right wing uses to make it sound like economics is a hard science. It's not, it never will be, it's a soft science, with models and predictions only slightly more rigorous than the other soft sciences.

    Your so-called 'forces' produce the results you expect them to under a limited set of conditions:
    -zero market entry cost
    -an extremely large number of producers and consumers
    -perfect information available to all agents
    -no collusion or government intervention for any agent
    -all agents act in a perfectly rational manner

    Under these conditions the supply and demand curves would predict prices, wages, and other good distribution with perfect accuracy. These conditions never exist, but some economic situations come close. The further you get from the assumptions of the market model, the less likely 'market forces' are to work.

    None of the needed assumptions is remotely valid:

    -zero market entry cost
    It costs an awful lot of money to open an overseas sweathsop. I think there's a pretty serious barrier here.

    -Extremely large number of agents
    Maybe. But how many sweatshop operators are there in any particular corner of nowhere? At a global level, the number of agents interested in running sweatshops might approximate a true market, but you still have geographic monopolies and oligopolies that have absurd amounts of bargaining leverage.

    -Perfect information to all agents.
    Definitely not

    -No collusion or government intervention.
    This is the big problem. It's illegal to strike in these countries. Try starting a union, or demanding better working conditions, and you'll end up dead. If you have a one-sweatshop town and a second sweatshop opens, do you really think both sweatshops will engage in a wage bidding war? They'll make an agreement to keep wages at $.07/day. This deal is better for both of them. In the US, we call this price-fixing, but in developing countries they call it business as usual.

    -All agents are perfectly rational
    Do you really think a sweatshop boss confronted with demands for higher wages is going to start drawing supply schedules and demand schedules and find the intersection like a good little economist would? He's gonna hire a death squad...

    I think 'market forces' and the 'law of supply and demand' are about as applicable here as classical mechanics and Newton's laws are at relativistic speeds. Sure, we can them to try and describe conditions and predict future conditions, but our predictions are just wrong.

    If yous stop to think about it, it's amazing you'd expect markets to correct this situation. Some people refuse to believe that markets ever produce grossly suboptimal results. The "Markets are Always Optimal" school of thought isn't a hard science, it isn't a soft science, it a fucking ideology - an article of faith. You apparently accept even when it's completely wrong.
  • I did some research on my own shoes. They're Converse, blue, you know, the skate type. The label inside the shoe told me "Made in Macau". I've never heard of Macau, let alone know where it is. I went to the Converse website to find out more. Let's have a look at their "studentinfo" (sic) l []

    • "...Converse Inc. is the largest U.S. manufacturer of athletic footwear due to its Lumberton, N.C. ..."
    • "Lumberton employs approximately 890 people and is the largest employer in Robeson County, NC.plant"
    • "Converse manufactured over 10 million pairs of the canvas Chuck Taylor All Star in 1992; 50 percent of which were shipped to overseas markets."
    Hmm that's strange, they're producing from the U.S ? There's nothing about Macau in there. It seems to be an All American shop.

    Let's do some more research and read a bit of the financial [] info on their website. Hmmm this SEC filing looks interesting. It seems to go to the site, but no hits on the query they gave us. Try hitting the link for yourself to see what I mean.

    Grmbl, let's see what google gives us. Hey another link to the SEC site. And this one does mention Macau ! []

    "We utilize independent producers located in the Far East, particularly China, Taiwan, Macau, Vietnam and the Philippines, to manufacture approximately 64% of our footwear."

    Well, 64% eh, that's quite a lot. I wonder how many sweatshops that is.

    Converse, Stay True (tm) []

  • The solution to this is for corporations to pay a reasonable wage to the workers.

    90% of the cost of a pair of shoes to nike does not go to manufacturing wages. You're paying for materials (and R&D for the same?), but mostly marketing, marketing, marketing.

    I suspect a small reduction in advertizing, or (gasp!) a price increase of a few dollars (which really isn't going to hurt any of us overweight americans) would provide enough available funds to pay a living wage to a 3rd world factory worker.

    If mom and or dad could get one tenth of the US minimum wage for their blood and sweat, then junior probably wouldn't have to work at all.

    However, Nike's management team would rather have nice bonuses, and their Ad firm wants to spend far more than necessary on advertizing.

    (DISCLAIMER: All facts presented here are actually assumptions, and statistics are made up)

  • by Ian Wolf ( 171633 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:54AM (#425934) Homepage
    He should have ordered a pair that said "Sweat" and another that said "Shop". Mix and Match and boom you're done.

  • by Chuck Flynn ( 265247 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:54AM (#425937)
    In as much as corporations are "natural persons" under Federal law, Nike must be held to the same standards that other individuals are held to: Nike must receive the death penalty for its crimes against humanity.

    Nike has engaged in countless acts of child labor [] abuse. They've not only failed to produce any benefits for the society that gave them corporate status; they've actively harmed that society. And other societies. It makes the US look like one evil corporate behemoth instead of the peaceful land of freedom our forefathers envisioned and drafted in our Constitution.

    When individuals kill other individuals, they receive the death penalty. When corporations do the same, they get to keep teh proceeds and profits? Even serial-killers are denied that right under most state laws.

    Anti-trust law is good and all, but it doesn't go far enough. Nike must receive the corporate death penalty (having its charter of incorporation burnt and its board members tried for criminal activities) not because they've harmed other corporations (as antitrust law concerns itself with) but because Nike has harmed actual living and breathing human beings.

    Corporations like Nike have no place in any modern civil society. They are as good as dead.
  • You are so blindsided by the idea that "providing jobs" is going to be an economic fix, that you are missing the fact that jobs are only as meaningful as 1. the wages the produce and, more importantly 2. the availability of local goods (esp. food) that can be bought with those wages. What is good for those workers is that people are producing food and goods locally at a price they can afford. The proliferation of sweatshops does nothing to make this happen - the economic benefits occur elsewhere.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2001 @05:30PM (#425941) Homepage Journal
    First, modern assembly lines are mechanised, for the most part, which (if you think about it) -is- going to skew the effects of the human component.

    Second, most of Robert Owen's findings apply to assembly lines equally well. In this case, a well-maintained robot arm is going to produce more than a poorly-maintained one, on a per-dollar basis, simply because it is capable of performing close to it's theoretical best. Whereas one that's not been oiled for a decade, and has half of its servos shorted, is not going to do nearly so well. Sure, it's -cheaper-, but so what?

    The equation you need to look at is this one: Real Cost = Total Expendeture - Total Productivity, where Total Expendeture = Base Cost of Work + Cost of Obtaining Labour + Cost of Maintaining Labour, and Total Productivity = Work Achieved + Worker Self-Enhancement (ie: learning how to be more effective, on their own).

    Last, you ask for URL's. What's stopping you from going to Altavista and punching in +"Robert Owen" +"Manchester"? Now, I've no problem with people critisising what I write, but self-admitted ignorant critisism, with no self-motivation to find out for yourself?

    Now, if you'd asked nicely, I'd have put them in as a hyperlink. As it is, you'll need to cut and paste. There's no gain without effort. Making it trivial for you would achieve you nothing. But if it's worth the work, for all that the work is trivial, you might actually profit some.

    • 1a .html
    • m
  • They are providing jobs that are better than most other jobs in the country.

    While I don't know that this is specifically true for Nike, it is not generally true for US and multinational corporations that have farmed out their production to the "export zones" of countries like Malaysia and the Philippines. Many of these companies routinely flout even the feeble labor laws of the countries where they set up shop. Because of "incentive programs", they generally pay no taxes. Workers are forced to buy company housing at rates that don't leave them much "take-home pay".

    Read No Logo by Naomi Klein.

  • I don't follow your logic. Most of these workers get better wages than they otherwise would, and are able to buy food and other necessities with it. Please elaborate: how does giving a job to a third-world peasant not improve his life? How is he going to support himself without a job?
  • Do you really believe that Nike will give up the cost-effectiveness of making shoes in Indonesia just because people 'browbeat' them. I'm not asking them to give their workers western wages, just western conditions. The cost to them would be relatively small and their sales would go up. For example I spend around $200 a month on clothes and suchlike and at the moment, Nike don't see a penny of this. My money may be a drop in the ocean, but then I'm not the only boycotter. A mere 500 people like me would see Nike losing $1million worth of sales a year. So you're right - Nike doesn't care about me in particular but throwing away $1 million of sales doesn't sound like good business sense to me.
    It does depress me to hear people say 'what's the point?'. If that had always been the attitude, the US would still be a British colony, African slaves would be still be picking cotton and only rich men would have the vote. Nothing may get changed thanks to my protest, but guaranteed nothing would get done, if I just carried on buying Nike.
  • So I should say nothing and give Nike my money in the hopes that one day they might do something. Your argument reminds me of the '97 UK election when one of Labour's pledges was to reinstate the minimum wage, which had been abolished by the previous government, leading to local sweatshops. The business community were up in arms; prices would rise and workers would have to be laid off. Three years after the minimum wage was reintroduced, unemployment and inflation are both at thirty year lows. I don't doubt that similar arguments were used against giving our ancestors rights at work.
    Finally, Nike do open factories in more developed countries. There are few to no western factories in Southern Africa (with the exception of South Africa) because it has been racked with war for decades. On the other hand, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico have been relatively stable for decades, but the possibility of upheaval should be taken into account when companies prop up tin-pot dictators like Deng Xiao Ping or President Suharto.
  • ROTFL!!! At one time Jim Crow may have been government sponsored, but now it is a social and cultural thing, not a political thing.

    What the hell are you talking about? Jim Crow was abolished in the sixties. Yes, there are still some racist white people, but conditions *have* improved. And most of the things that are holding minorities back are still government-run: public schools, minimum wage, discriminatory "not in my backyard" zoning laws, etc.

    Jesus, first you are talking about government then you jump to unions. Do I need to remind you that unions are not the government?

    No, my point (which perhaps I didn't make clearly) was that unions are given their priviledged position by law. If the majority of the union votes for a particular policy, they can dictate those terms to the minority, and it's an "unfair labor practice" to hire those who don't like the contract the union negotiated. Without those labor laws minorities would have been able to negotiate seperate contracts with employers and probably would have gotten better deals.

    Were you asleep in History class? Do you even know the history of Affirmative Action? To blame the federal government is bogus.

    You didn't address my point that prior to the 1960's at least the government was the primary means of perpetuating racism in society. In the South we went straight from Jim Crow to affirmative action and anti-discrimination law-- the free market option was never tried. To blame the market for the conditions of minorities is still ludicrous.

    As for affirmative action, if it works so well, why are minorities still worse off than whites?

    if no applicants apply at $5 but lots do at $7, then the effective prevailing local minimum wage is $7

    That's kind of the point, isn't it? Is that such a hard concept to understand? The "effective minimum wage" rises when there are more jobs than workers. You claimed that only governmetn intervention would make employers pay higher wages. Obviously that's false.

    By definition, minimium wage jobs do not require much education or training, so this statement is false.

    Simply having a job is a step up the job ladder of sorts. Even a burger-flipping job gives you experience showing up for work on a regular basis, following directions, operating a cash register, etc. More importantly, once you have your first job, you can get references for future jobs. "Unemployed for 5 years" doesn't look good on the resume.

    As for your ranting about the minimum wage, do you have an actual *argument* as to why it doesn't lock the least skilled out of the job market, or do you prefer to simply belittle me and accuse me of being part of some vast right-wing conspiracy? If you're not bright enough to understand elementary economics, I'm probably wasting my time explaining it to you.

    Your last couple of paragraphs don't deserve a response. You are making a large number of stupid assumptions about my motivations and beliefs. I'm not in the mood to debunk a bunch of mindless ad homs.

  • Nothing may get changed thanks to my protest, but guaranteed nothing would get done, if I just carried on buying Nike.

    This is where I believe you're wrong. The conditions of third world workers will improve because once the excess labor is all hired up, companies will start raising wages to compete for workers. By boycotting companies who use sweatshops, you are discouraging them from opening factories overseas, and so you are delaying (if not outright preventing) this from happening. If anything, we should be encouraging companies to open sweatshops, thus hastening the day when all workers in the third world have jobs, and factories are forced to raise wages.

    The problem is that as long as the only reason they pay the higher wages is because you disagree with them, they'll work hard to find ways of getting the cost savings and sell you the shoes-- they'll try to lie to you. And boycotts will only do so much. If you demand too much from them and the boycott is widespread enough, they *will* close up shop and move elsewhere.

    Market forces, on the other hand, don't have either of these downsides. They will cause every sweatshop to be improved, and will work even if no American consumer pays any attention to it. And the wage growth made possible is unbounded-- it *is* possible that they'll approach American-styly wages as the infrastructure improves and the workforce gains experience.

    The boycott option is a short-term fix, while market forces are a long-term solution. My harm is that the former will slow down the operation of the latter, thus delaying jobs and higher wages for everyone so that a few workers in Nike plants can have higher wages now.

    I'm not by any means arguing for apathy. I don't dislike boycotting because I don't there's anything we can or should do. I dislike it because I think it does harm to the prospects of third-world workers, by taking away choices and slowing the inflow of capital into poor regions.
  • by DESADE ( 104626 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:55AM (#425962)
    What I find ironic is the fact that he ended up ordering a pair of shoes with another ID anyway. This guy's dediction to the ideal he was bringing attention to obviously was not important enough to prevent him from buying from the supplier he targeted.

    Sometimes the only real protest is not doing business with the company whos practices you oppose.
  • by KahunaBurger ( 123991 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:55AM (#425966)
    Don't you think it's a bit ironic that this guy was ordering a pair of supposedly sweatshop manufactured shoes, for the purpose of calling attention to the fact that they were manufactured in a sweatshop?

    You are assuming he actually EXPECTED his order to be filled. A foolish assumption, IMHO. The article called it a culture jam, and thats just what it was. A way to get Nike to do just what it did and expose their hypocrisy for the (internet) world.

    And if one went out and got a leather jacket at a second hand store and did just what you mention, it would be kinda funny and ethically legitamate. (or if someone wasn't an ethical vegitarian and just wanted to make irony points.)

    Kahuna Burger

  • But why should children have to work to stay alive? Because sweatshop owners won't pay their employees enough to support themselves, let alone their children. Don't argue that the companies can't afford to.

    OK, so what's your proposal? You claim that companies can afford to and should provide living wage jobs for every third world worker. Fine. What policy do you propose that will accomplish this goal?

    You're setting up an entirely unreasonable scenario: that the evil corporations you loathe so much will spontaneously raise wages out of the goodness of their own hearts, or that wages can be raised by government fiat. This is simply false.

    Again, poverty is not a new thing. It was not created by multinational corps. So if governments can raise standards of living by fiat, why didn't they do it long ago? Given that they haven't done so in the past, what makes you think more of the same will lead to any better result? It's fine to express your moral outrage, but what do *you* propose we do about it?
  • by crucini ( 98210 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @05:53PM (#425969)
    This guy isn't some social crusader seeking to remedy evils. He's an MIT student hacking a system. Nike claimed to build a system with this characteristic:
    If you feed money and a text string in one end, AND the text string does NOT meet four criteria, a pair of shoes will come out the other end with the text string printed on them.

    The student tested this system and found that there's another, unstated criterion in the real system. He tested the bounds of the alleged freedom of expression Nike is selling, and found an interesting data point.
  • unless he figured they wouldn't actually make the shoe but just get him some publicity.
  • What you Nike-proponents and capitalism-freaks don't realise is that by hiring children for these tasks, Nike is perpetuating the cycle of poverty: kids who work in these factories can't get educated, and when they grow up they send their kids to these factories, ad infinitum.

    Your absolutely right, how ignorant of me. Why if it wasn't for Nike these childeren would be going to clean and modern schools, wearing the latest fashions from 'The Gap', with their parents picking them up after school in their new Lexus SUV's to drive them to soccer practice!

    People who grew up in the suburbs of america think the rest of the world is just like that and they are completely wrong. These childeren would either be begging in the streets, slaving away as hard or harder to scratch crops from their relatives tourtured farmland, or stealing/hooking to get enough to eat.

    As for the morality of it all, Nike is giving the gift of life to childeren who would otherwise starve to death and all they ask in return is a few shoes. It is certainly not as bad as child pornography; but if you want to use that analogy.. Between the choice of that child being exploited or that child dying which of those hard choices would you choose?

    -- Greg
  • by iamsure ( 66666 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @11:56AM (#425975) Homepage
    Just customize it to the Personal ID of "5w34t5h0p"

    I guarantee that everyone here would "get" it, and that nike almost definitely wouldnt have it in their filters. ;)

  • I recently saw a British documentary where the TV crew infiltrated a factory run by Gap, supposedly a sweatshop, in Cambodia.

    The conditions didn't seem too bad to me - the factory was well lit and clean. The working conditions were probably far superior to the bulk of the jobs you could find in cambodia.

    They discovered a few instances of underaged labor, and the company was forced to send the children back to the villages - which makes one wonder whether the documentary crew really did the children a favor, since they lost their job - and it would probably be only a matter of time before they found their way back to the city to find employment.

  • Because if he is not producing goods for export, he will be producing goods for local consumption. If the land that is being used for a factory is used for food and goods for him and his neighbors that they can afford, then there is a local sustainable economy. Think in terms of total economics, not just in within the bounds of simple monetarism.

  • In all the years I've been reading Slashdot, I've never been so disgusted by the reactions of posters, most of them posting along the lines of " Nike is not responsible for sweatshops/poverty, they were already there in the first place ".

    At one point, someone says "If Nike would be forced to pay decent wages, and not hire children, they would move back the factories to the US".

    Well, thanks to multilateral trade agreements, tariffs barriers are falling down, and the result is the free movement of merchandise. Countries no longer have to face protective tariffs and whole industries are sucked offshore.

    What would be needed is free trade but with tariffs. Each country could be given an indice, proportional to it's standard of living, and, most importantly, proportional to the level of it's democracy. Tariffs could then be levied according to the differences between the indices of each trading country.

    This would, of course, discourage trading between countries with different levels. So, the tariffs levied would then go to the poorer country, but administered by an entity that's outside the jurisdiction of the country, so to ensure that there is no embezzelment by corrupt authorities. Of course, any country that would resist that external administration's efforts would face an instant trade embargo.


  • Market forces work very well in highly skilled occupations where there are fewer staff than workers. That isn't the case in the semi- and unskilled area where there are many many more people than jobs. Market forces are unlikely to ever solve this, that's why government legislation was required in the 19th century to end the practice in the west. Look at the result - after a mere hundred years centuries of abject poverty are gone, and we've enjoyed the fastest period of technological growth in history. The arguments against ending worker exploitation have always been that the extra cost would cost so much that factory owners would have to lay off staff. It didn't happen then and it wouldn't happen now. The Chinese government isn't about to improve things, but there's nothing stopping Nike or Gap, except that it isn't economical. What I and others are trying to do is make it more economical to do this by not buying their products.
    If market forces had always been allowed to run rampant in the west, slaves would still be picking cotton, children would still be working in dangerous conditions and women would be paid a great deal less than men. The market never takes a long-term view, it only cares about what sells now. But making workers richer means more profits in the future for a small profits hit now.
  • Cool jacket!

    Where could I buy such a jacket?

    Maybe 'Deal with it' could be on the back.

  • Because it's true. You describe lots of problems third world workers face, but what you don't mention is that Nike didn't cause those problems.
    There's no reason to blame Nike. It's part of the free market principle that you put your money into the things that you want to encourage. If people can make it financially adventageous for a high-profile company like Nike to ensure that the companies that they contract pay a decent non-slave wage to their workers, they will do it. Simple economics.

    Nike is different than Fly-by-Night Chinese Clothing Corp who don't have any investment in your goodwill. Once Nike is convinced that it's cheaper to ensure that their (indirect) employees are reasonably treated by North American/ European standards, it could have a domino effect on the treatment of near-slave workers elsewhere in the third world.

    If you don't care about human rights elsewhere in the world, you don't have to do anything about Nike. On the other hand, if you refuse to do anything to support somebody else's human rights, there's going to be that much less human rights karma available to help you when you (or your kids) get arrested for doing something like making their own DVD.

    Just remember: The people most likely to be opressed by human right violations are generally at their weakest. If you ever have your rights violated, chances are that you're going to be needing the help of others to get out of the pickle.

    That's the main reason why some people care about the human rights of others []. We're setting up the principles for the defence of our own rights.

  • "Bad jobs are better than no jobs"

    WRONG! If all parties were perfectly aware of the situation, you would be right.

    However clearly Nike holds the upper hand. Nike knows about the health risks due to the fumes from glue that bonds the sole to the rest of the shoe. The workers don't. Nike knows they can make the employees work for longer hours than promised, with no immediate retribution. Sure, the employee can quit but they won't get their last paycheck, etc. Nike knows they can physically abuse their employees -- not likely to be part of the initial employment agreement, nor is it likely to be legal in the country of employment. Nike knows they can lie to the American public about the conditions, and get away with it for the most part.

    All of these cases are instances where the employee doesn't have perfect knowledge -- and thus can't be expected to make a rational decision. Economics classes assume perfect information. This doesn't mean one can see the future, but it does mean that all parties know all current information. I have a BS in Economics, and while it does help me analyze problems, I am careful of the assumptions an economics analysis requires.

    Nike isn't the only guilty shoe and apparel manufacturer -- its just the biggest. Want to stop an evil gang? Take out its leader.

    PS -- LIVINGWAGE is 10 characters, and it was accepted as a iD for the ZOOM XC iD (a running shoe).

  • You really have no point whatsoever, do you?

    I think he was illustrating a possible hypocracy. It is somewhat like saying Windows is for loosers yet owning and using a copy at the same time, trying to pretend not to be a looser.

    Why would someone buy something using a process to slam the method of slamming how that product was made?

    Just a hypothetical case.
  • You prove my point. The number 1 ranked country is also the most free. Its a process. Different countries are at different stages in the process. The phillipines are in the protectionist phase, while hong kong is in the globalization/world markets stage. One stage leads to another. And by the way youre really good a spewing out numbers that are meaningless without any context I rank you 23 with a score of 2.9 and a percentage of 3.14. Oh and your trade is 4.3, not 2.0!

  • Believe it or not, I would consider myself a democrat. heh, you might even go so far as to say i was a true marxist. Marx took the long view towards societal change, believeing that if one waited long enough inevitabley the entire world would change to socialism. That remains to be seen, it is the best form of government on earth, except for the small fact that it doesnt work. That doesnt mean I dislike or am even against socialism, id love to see a good solid socialist society but im not holding my breath. Most of my fellow democrats are not students of history and havent seen that all the countries on earth have followed a similar trajectory, and that beign against free trade in the name of jobs is ultimately shortsighted. but thats far too long an answer for the question posed, so ill shut up

  • With regards to the british capital point, did you actually read my post? I dont deny any of this, I said that the US first started becoming industrialized at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Before then, yes they were dependant on british capital, and this was key to their development. Many countries today in latin america and asia are in similar positions with respect to US capital. Without fre trade, that capital dries up, and those regions lose all hope of becoming first world countries with reasonable living standards

  • I'm just putting up the figures for anybody who's interested in the actual wages (as opposed to charity ads, etc) of someone over here.

    I don't fully agree that if the multi-nationals left, we'd be worse off. Large corporations usually equate to massive corruption. There's also the effects of globalization and the forcing of third world countries to open up their markets, while the US refuses to drop tariffs on imports FROM these same countries.

    Yes, in time our economy may develop to a point where we'll be able to compete. But due to the influence of First World governments and multinationals, that may never happen. All they want is sources of cheap raw materials, and masses of consumers for their goods.
  • LOL!

    Check this one out. It's been dubbed over with real voices :) []
  • by dougman ( 908 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @12:02PM (#426036)
    I find it intriguing, that moments after this story was posted, the html "wizard" that allows consumers to build their own Nikes was suddenly changed ever so slightly, and I mean ever so slightly - suddenly the textbox to enter your "id" was limited in size to 8 charachters. Just one shy of the 9 chars in the word "sweatshop".

    And to prove this was deliberate I checked the cache of my second pc which coincidentally had visited just this site a few days ago. The text limit was 12 chars on what was otherwise identical HTML.


    Unfortunately, I can still think of plenty of regrettable things (to Nike) that fit in 8 chars or less (per shoe).

    I recommend we all place an order right this moment for a pair of shoes with "goatse" in the left shoe and ".cx" in the right one.

  • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @12:23PM (#426056) Homepage Journal

    A sweatshop is factory that uses a dominant position (only work available in the area, or "owns" the local government, or employs illegal aliens) to enforce illegal work conditions.

    A good summary of the problem can be found in the article "Human Rights Abuses in the Apparel Industry []". Search the document for Nike. Nike is responsible for using illegal tactics to withhold pay, to enforced overtime over the legal maximum, and to pay below minimum wage pay. Nike knows about and allows physical and sexual abuse. Nike is breaking the law in these countries.

    But apparently because these things happen far away, because the governments is question have problems enforcing their laws, because these workers are desperate for the work, this is acceptable. After all, it "helps keep Nike running shoes affordable for all of us." Apparently the end justifies the means. All hail Nike for abusing human rights in name of cheap sneakers.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2001 @12:07PM (#426078) Homepage Journal
    First, if you faced the alternatives of "low cost labour", or starvation, I agree, you might well go for it, and appreciate it.

    However, these practices were banned in the UK back in the early-to-mid Industrial Revolution, as too many workers were dying or becoming seriously injured. (As in, losing limbs, eyes, etc.)

    Many people rightly feel that if WE oppose such practices, on moral, ethical (or even business) grounds, for our own children, how DARE we consider it acceptable for children in some conveniently remote location!

    Last, but not least, Mill-Owner Robert Owen (founder of Owen's College, now the University of Manchester, England) proved conclusively that an able, educated, well-nourished, well-treated work-force with adequate breaks and adequate housing will ALWAYS out-produce a crippled, uneducated, malnourished, abused one, with no breaks and poor housing, by MORE than the difference in cost between them.

    Nike is foolish. Not for moving to a 3rd-world country, but for making the same errors that post-medieval industrialists did. Serfs make very poor labor pools.

    Nike could double their profits, by raising the standards of living & working. This might sound a bit strange, but it's a truth large corporations ignore at their peril. NOBODY works better than their conditions. If you want a workforce that can outproduce a small nation, you give them a reason to WANT to outproduce a small nation, to WANT to be that dedicated.

    As Roy Castle once said... "Dedication is what you need."

  • by binarybits ( 11068 ) on Friday February 16, 2001 @12:08PM (#426080) Homepage
    You probably don't believe the MS FUD and PR bullshit, so why are you believing the Nike one????

    Because it's true. You describe lots of problems third world workers face, but what you don't mention is that Nike didn't cause those problems. Those countries were poor long before Nike arrived on the scene, and would even poorer if Nike were to close it's "sweatshops" and produce shoes elsewhere.

    it's fine to sympathize with how bad conditions are in the third world. But don't blame Nike for those conditions. They are providing jobs that --while we may not think they're good-- are better than most other jobs in the country. It hardly makes sense to demonize Nike for providing jobs for poor people just because they didn't improve conditions enough. Those people would be worse off without Nike, not better.
  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Friday February 16, 2001 @12:10PM (#426096)
    While this doesn't sound like that good of a deal to most lazy Americans, who like to sit in their cubicles and eat donuts all day, if you were a starving Vietnamese kid, you'd probably be pretty grateful that someone would offer you a job...

    Oh please. Alright then, what if you were an "unskilled" American laborer, not a "lazy" cube-sitter, who wanted an assembly-line job with this stable, reputable American company?

    Oh, sorry, you can't, because there aren't any Nike factories in the US. Because the workers there would demand a decent wage, medical benefits, the whole nine yards. They might even -gasp! - organize into unions to demand these concessions. So, thanks Nike for taking these jobs out of the US. Great corporate citizen.

    And if you're going to come back with "well, Americans should work as cheap as the East Asians," then tell me: why? When the executives of the company are making millions per year, why should ANYONE be satisfied with a few hundred (or less!) per week? These are the laborers who are physically MAKING the fortune that Nike executives live on. The fact that they receive such a miserably small portion of the compensation is unforgivable, no matter what side of the Pacific they're on. The difference is that here, they'd make some noise about it.

    (Incidentally, Nike was targetted by a sketch on "TV Nation" a couple of years ago; Michael Moore went to Phil Knight's office and asked why there are NO Nike factories in the US, and he had the gaul to say that "People in America don't want to make shoes"! Seriously! So this "make your own shoe" promotion is really ironic on that level, too)

  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2001 @12:42PM (#426101)
    is it also moral to expect a street orphan on the streets of Calcutta not to work, especially when it is the only way he will make money?

    Is it moral to expect a child to work long, grueling hours for little pay or benefits, simply because they were born in the wrong country? A job that, incidentally, prevents them from gaining any sort of education, severly decreasing their chances of getting a better job in the future.

    Is it moral to say that working in harsh conditions such as sweatshops is third world peoples "choice", when in reality, there is no choice? If I have to choose between a sweatshop and starvation, that really isn't much of a choice, now, is it?

    Is it moral to to casually dismiss the exploitations of workers in another country simply because it doesn't affect your life? Your great-great grandfather, who risked his life by striking against harsh factory conditions in the 1800's, so that he might be able to provide a better life for his family, might have something to say about that. So might the tens of thousands of other people in this country's past, who sacrificed their jobs, their dignity, and sometimes their lives, all so you could have some of the things you so obviously take for granted, like health insurance, vacation time, guarenteed work breaks, and high wages.

    Why don't you step away from the keyboard for a little bit, look around you, and realize that whatever job you currently hold, whatever eductation you currently have, and whatever possesions you currently own, would not in any way have been possible had it not been for the sacrifices of these men and women who came before you. And now, why don't you go do something to honor those people, instead of shitting on them like you just did with that post.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.