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Nike: Don’t pressure employees to lobby on your behalf
Nike is pushing its own employees to lobby the U.S. Congress to pass a massive new trade deal with countries that have poor working conditions. Workers shouldn’t be pressured by their employer to support specific political views of a corporation. We’re calling on Nike to stop pressuring its employees to lobby on behalf of the company.
Why is this important?
President Obama is scheduled to appear at the Nike company headquarters in Oregon on May 8, 2015 to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- a multinational agreement focused on trade between the U.S. and 11 other countries. Meanwhile, Nike’s management is putting pressure on its own employees to promote the agreement as well. In a memo sent to some employees this March, Nike’s General Counsel said: “We need to hear your voice as a Nike employee on this issue” and pushed employees to contact their members of Congress to approve the deal.
Among other concerns, many are worried that an easing of trade restrictions without strong measures to ensure workers’ rights are protected could exacerbate a race to the bottom where companies have even more incentive to source from factories with the worst wages and conditions.
Nike has a clear interest in this trade deal. Less than 1 percent of the more than 1 million workers who made the products that earned Nike $27.8 billion in revenue in 2014 were U.S. workers. Last year, one-third of Nike’s remaining 13,922 American production workers were cut. It has been reported that one-third of the supply chain workers who produce for Nike are in Vietnam -- a nation that would be part of the TPP. Vietnam bans independent unions, uses child and forced labor and pays minimum wages of less than 60 cents an hour.
Nike took a lot of heat from anti-sweatshop activists and Vietnamese unions for poor factory conditions in the 1990s. While some conditions have improved since that time, wages in apparel and shoe production in Vietnam are still extremely low. TPP would not require companies like Nike to pay the workers who make their sneakers a living wage.
It is unfair to pressure employees to lobby on behalf of the company’s desire to outsource production to the lowest wage workers in the world. Employees should be able to make up their own minds and speak their opinions without the company they work for telling them what to do. Nike should stop telling its workers what to believe and how to express their opinions.