Presidential Apparel Industry Partnership lashes out against Nike
Jan 29, 1999
[The signers of the following letter to Nike are the non-governmental organization (NGO) members of the White House task force on sweatshop abuses (AIP - Apparel Industry Partnership).]
We have followed the deeply disturbing reports of the January 11, 1999, letter from Nike Vice President Joseph M. Ha to Mr. Cu Thi Hau, President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor. This letter alleges that "a few U.S. human rights groups, as well as a Vietnamese refugee who is engaged in human rights activities, are not friends of Vietnam" and further, that their criticism of labor practices in Nike's factories is "the first step for their political goal which is to create a so-called 'democratic' society, modeled after the U.S."
As the NGO members of the Apparel Industry Partnership, we worked with Nike and a number of other companies to create a Fair Labor Association that would incorporate civil society organizations in the monitoring of production for the member companies. We find this letter to be completely at odds with the principles underlying the AIP agreement, and to cast grave doubt on Nike's stated commitment to that agreement. It has served to undermine the fragile cooperation between Vietnamese Nike workers and NGOs seeking to assist them to secure the rights your company pledged to afford them by adopting your Code of Conduct and agreeing to the AIP Workplace Code. In Vietnam, it has created a cloud of unfair suspicion over all organizations that engage in much-needed advocacy for universal human rights. And the expression of anti-democratic and authoritarian values by a senior Nike official raises serious questions about Nike's commitment to the principles embodied in the Fair Labor Association.
We have seen press statements to the effect that other Nike officials have disowned the statement by Vice President Ha, and have tried to imply that he spoke only for himself. Such statements are simply inadequate. The damage that Ha has done on the ground in Vietnam remains unchanged by these statements. The only way that Nike can recover its integrity in this matter is to reverse publicly, in Vietnam, its position and make clear to the Vietnamese government and the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor that Nike values the work of human rights monitors in general and that, in particular, it recognizes and respects the positive work of the Vietnam Labor Watch organization headed by Mr. Thuyen Nguyen. For this step to carry sufficient weight, it is necessary for Nike to encourage Mr. Thuyen Nguyen publicly to continue his important advocacy work in Vietnam, and to accompany him in meetings with Vietnamese officials to correct the wrong done to him by the letter from Joseph Ha. It is also important that Dr. Ha be sanctioned sufficiently by Nike, by demotion, dismissal or transfer, to convey convincingly to a skeptical public that he did not, in fact, speak for Nike, only for himself.
We await your immediate response to this letter, including a complete copy of Vice President Ha's letter and any subsequent press statements or retractions issued by the company. We regard this as an extremely serious situation. We strongly urge Nike to take all appropriate steps, including those outlined above, to remedy the damage that has been done by this unfortunate letter. We seek to meet with you or other senior Nike officials within the next few days to discuss your remedial actions and the consequences with respect to the AIP process.
National Consumers League
Pharis J. Harvey
International Labor Rights Fund
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
New York, NY
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights
cc: Brad Figel, Director of Nike Governmental Affair
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