"There's a girl being born in America and someone will give her a doll and someone will give her a ball and then someone will give her a chance." -- Nike Commercial
"But what chance is Nike giving women workers in Vietnam? " Roberta Baskin of CBS News asks
The following is a summary of CBS News 48 Hours program, October 17, 1996, about Nike in Vietnam. Reprinting of this article is welcomed.
The Nike Story in Viet Nam
CBS News 48 Hours goes to Vietnam to investigate the treatment and condition of workers at a Nike shoe manufacturing plant. This plant, even though subcontracted by Nike to a Korean manufacturer, displays prominent signs of the famous Nike logo. CBS News reports that workers, mostly women, in this plant earn an average of $42 a month below the legal minimum wage in Viet Nam of $45. Yet the workers must meet a daily quota that is set very high, requiring them to work overtime. They are not allowed to go home until they met the daily quota. With the little money that they made, the workers must buy lunch from the factory using meal tickets subtracted from their monthly pay.
Not only are the wages low, the workers must put up with physical and sexual abuse. CBS reported that 15 women workers were beaten over the head by their supervisor for poor sewing. The supervisor, a Korean woman, was put on trial and convicted by the local authorities but was allowed to leave the country. Another incident, CBS reported, involved 45 women who were made to kneel on the ground for 25 minutes with their hands in the air. In another disturbing incident, a Korean supervisor, accused of sexually molesting female workers, left the country before he could be put on trial.
When CBS News approached Nike's representative at Nike Vietnam's headquarter, the representative simply covered the camera with his palm and said 'I have things to do'.
In America, Nike's reaction to the whole incident is not much better. In front of several hundred shareholders, after announcing record earnings and a stock split, Nike's president and CEO, Phil Knight minimized the problems in Vietnam as simply an incident in which a single worker was hit on the arm by a Korean supervisor. Roberta Baskin of CBS News commented, "It turns out Nike has a great deal to learn about what goes on inside these factories."
Other American companies employ better labor practices than Nike. CBS News also reported on the conditions at a Coca Cola bottling plant. Coca Cola does not use a subcontractor. The company is not in Vietnam for cheap labor, but concentrates on quality and productivity. Workers at Coca-Cola in Viet Nam got a wage of $80 a month and fringe benefits such as English lessons and sales training. Coca-Cola also had a record earning last year.