Last updated Dec 08, 2004. Check this section often for the latest updates.
Nike has made an effort to be better corporate citizen, at least with regard to conditions in Vietnam in 2000 timeframe. We applaud Nike's move toward improving conditions at their factories. We urge Nike and other corporations that have factories around the world to continue monitoring and improving working conditions of their employees.
These web pages are archived here as a reminder of what once happened, and can happen again if we are not vigilant and speak up for those who are not able to. Remember that history repeats itself.
Nike Shoe Plant in Vietnam Is Called Unsafe for Workers a front page article in the New York Times. This article is based on an internal Nike document leaked to the press. Nike can no longer deny that there are many problems in its overseas factories. Nike can no longer say that its workers are not forced to work many hours of overtime. Nike can no longer make statements that its factories are safe and healthy. In an inspection report that was prepared in January for the company's internal use only, Ernst & Young wrote that workers at the factory near Ho Chi Minh City were exposed to carcinogens that exceeded local legal standards by 177 times in parts of the plant and that 77 percent of the employees suffered from respiratory problems. The report also said that employees at the site, which is owned and operated by a Korean subcontractor, were forced to work 65 hours a week, far more than Vietnamese law allows, for $10 a week.
Jan 30, 1999. Nike taken to task for exec's letter The four activist groups that signed on to President Clinton's anti-sweatshop initiative blasted Nike Inc. on Friday for what they termed the "anti-democratic and authoritarian values" espoused by a senior company executive. The four groups asked that Nike fire or otherwise sanction Joseph Ha, a Nike vice president, as well as publicly disavow the sentiments Ha expressed in a Jan. 11 letter to the Vietnamese government. Ha, one of two special assistants to Nike Chairman Phil Knight, accused activists who criticized conditions in Nike's Vietnamese factories of also seeking to oust the country's communist government.
Jan 29, 1999. Presidential Apparel Industry Partnership lashes out against Nike. It asks that Nike either fire or severely punished Nike vice-president Joseph Ha for making false accusations that US labor groups harbor political agenda to subvert Vietnam. The letter said: "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.
Jan 21, 1999. Nike made false accusation that anti-Nike Viet-American labor activists harbor hidden political agenda. We demand an apology and a retraction for making careless and dangerous accusations that anti-Nike Vietnamese American labor groups have hidden political agenda in Vietnam. There are no hidden agenda among anti-Nike Viet-American labor groups including Vietnam Labor Watch (VLW). To the contrary, Vietnam Labor Watch has aggressively advocated improving trade-relation between the US and Vietnam. Our goal is to have more US investment in Vietnam because most US companies are good employers. Nike is simply one of the exception and has earned its well-deserved shameful reputation as a promoter of sweatshops in the 3rd world.
Jan 20, 1999. Nike does not support democratic society in Vietnam. According to AP, a Nike vice-president Jozef Ha said labor activist groups "target Nike because Nike helps to create many jobs in Vietnam. Their political objective is to create a so-called democratic society on the U.S. model. A nation should not necessarily apply the model of another nation. Each nation has its own internal political system. Nike believes completely in this."
April 20, 1998. Nike Sued Over Sweatshop Conditions. The following press statement was released today by Communications Works: (415) 255-1946, WORKS@IGC.ORG . Staff at Communications Works, a progressive news service, emphasized that the law firms involved have the track record, the resources and the will to pursue this suit vigorously. This lawsuit could be tremendously important in pressuring Nike to undertake a systematic reform of its labor practices. The object is not to have Nike bring its claims down to the level of its practices but instead to force the company to bring its labor practices up to the level of its claims.
April 12, 1998. Made in Vietnam: The Sneaker Controversy. In this one-hour report, ESPN offers a powerful documentation that Nike has not clean up its act in Vietnam. ESPN reports three incidents of physical abuse, one just as recently as March 1998. ESPN describes the health hazzards and carcinogens that Nike factory workers have to face day to day. ESPN also shows what it's like to be a factory worker living in poverty, facing the daily grind of overtime and verbal abuse and the fear of retaliation so strong that workers would not speak up even when they are cheated from their hard-earned salaries.
Mar 8, 1998. TRAC's criticism of the Nike-sponsored "Dartmouth study" . Nike would never tell you that the "Dartmouth report" was conducted and authored solely by MBA students at the Tuck School of Business as a class assignment -- a nice vacation break for several MBA students with all expenses paid for by Nike. None of the famous economists and prestigious research staff of Dartmouth University are involved with this "Dartmouth" report. We should ask why Nike did not ask those American university researchers who have done years of work on the "living wage" issue to conduct a "living wage" study. The Dartmouth Study is another public reation ploy by Nike. In Oct. '97 and Dec. '97, the conclusions of the "Dartmouth report" were part of two press events trumpeting Nike's goodness for Asian women workers, but Nike did not release the "study". The "Darthmouth Report" was finally provided to the public in Jan 1998, but Nike conveniently left out the appendices which contain crucial field data collected by the students. Once the hard data is revealed, the data DO NOT backup the rosy conclusions announced earlier by Nike. TRAC's reseracher, Dara O'Rourke, showed the obfuscation and false conclusion of the Nike's "Dartmouth study".
Nov 7, 1997. Corporate Watch Scoop: Nike's Sweatshop Secrets" A confidential Ernst & Young audit of labor and environmental conditions inside a Nike factory in Vietnam was recently leaked to the Transnational Resource & Action Center (TRAC). This is the first time that an accounting firm's labor and en vironmental audit of any apparel company has ever been made public. This internal audit reveals that Nike workers continue to work in hazardous and unjust working conditions. And TRAC's report, Smoke From A Hired Gun, which is an analysis and criti que of the Ernst & Young audit, shows that things are even worse than Nike admits. This report exposes sweatshop conditions. It also poses alternatives to accounting firm audits as a way to monitor the global operations of U.S. corporations such as Nike
Nov 7, 1997. Press release from Vietnam Labor Watch. On Thursday, Nov. 6, Dar O'Rourke, a TRAC research associate, was preparing to release his report, Smoke from a Hired Gun, an analysis and critique of labor practices and Ernst Young's monitoring of a Nike factory in Vietnam. This report includes an internal document from Ernst & Young (E&Y) to Nike detailing many problems in this factory, Tae-Kwang Vina. The report came out of a three-month consulting assignment done by Mr. O'Rourke for the United Nation in which he surveyed 50 factories in Vietnam's Dong Nai province and from interviews with Nike factory workers. On November 7, Nike found out about TRAC's report and decided to release the E&Y's document to the public. This is the first time Nike has ever released this document despite many repeated requests from labor rights organizations. Nike is only releasing this report today to pre-empt the impact of the TRAC's report on Nike labor practices in Vietnam.
Oct. 17, 1997. Press release from Vietnam Labor Watch & Press for Change. Facing a growing international protest that reaches over 12 countries and 50 US Cities, a 3-day strike by 6000 Indonesian factory workers, and an embarrasing moment when a Nike factory in Vietnam was placed under investigation for making pornographic materials, Nike decided to release preliminary findings of a wage study paid for by the company without releasing any details.
Oct. 5, 1997.Instead of fixing its labor practice problems, Nike decided to attack its critics and provide the public misinformation. Here is Asia Monitor Resource Center and Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee press statement about Nike's response to recent charges of exploitative labor conditions in China.
Sep. 21, 1997. Exploitative labor conditions involving child labor, excessive forced overtime and below minimum wage salary were found in Nike factories in China as documented in a Sep '97 report from Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee and Asian Monitor Resource Centre.
Sep. 15, 1997. The New Republic. The Nike report was "classic Andy Young," it was also a classic sham, marred not just by shoddy methodology but by frequent misrepresentations. The report lists consultants who were never consulted and includes photos of union representatives who, it turns out, were not union officials. Young deliberately avoided the most obvious and controversial question-- whether Nike paid its employees fair wages--and, when gathering testimony, he relied almost exclusively on translators employed by the Nike factories.
July 24, 1997. Vietnam Labor Watch was asked by President Clinton's Apparel Industry Partnership to submit a testimony on independent monitoring.
July 22, 1997. Vietnam Labor Watch responds to Far Eastern Economic Review's editorial "Striking Out" on July 17. The VLW's letter was published by the Far Eastern Economic Review on Aug 1, 1997.
July 9, 1997. Vietnam Labor Watch's response to Andrew Young's report on Nike labor practice.
June 28, 1997. Nike contractor, Sam Yang Vietnam Co., apologized to workers for labor law violations. Enclosed is a translation of what the company handed out to factory workers.
June 22, 1997. AP reports another incident of abuse occured at a Nike factory in May 1997. This incident occured after Andrew Young visited the factory and during the time when Mr. Young was preparing his report on Nike's labor practices. It was not a surprise to find that this incident was not mention in Mr. Young's report.
June 21, 1997. Thanh Nien Newspaper The truth behind Nike statements. Nike contractors instituted new measures to fine workers for "arbitrary" mistakes (needle breakage, taking sick days) to re-coop recent workers' salary gains.
June 17, 1997. South China Morning Post Nike has provided misinformation to the public in its criticism of Garry Trudeau, the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip. Nike claimed that workers receive free medical care, English lessons and training classes. Nike workers in Vietnam do not receive free English lessons and training classes, nor do they receive free medical care. All factory workers pay for their own health insurance, which is deducted from their monthly paycheque.
April 25, 1997. Despite Nike's recent signing of President Clinton's Apparel Industry Agreement, it is still business as usual for Nike factory workers in Vietnam. According to our interviews with officials at the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Confederation of Labor and factory workers, on April 25 the SamYang Vina Company, a Nike contractor in HCMC, threatened to fire workers from the gluing, sole, and finishing plants unless they agreed to the company's terms. Workers were brought to the factory office, and told to sign either the management's contract or a letter of resignation. A few workers were intimidated and signed the contract. About 1300 refused to submit to such threats and went on strike instead. This intimidation took place while Nike expatriates managers were in the factory. Such despicable actions by a Nike contractor give able witness to the non-enforcement of Nike's Code of Conduct in its Vietnam factories. Please refer to VLW's press release on the strike.
March 27, 1997. With an invitation from Nike, in March 1997, Vietnam Labour Watch (VLW) went to Vietnam to investigate Nike's labor practices. After its investigation, VLW has released a report on the facts about working conditions in Vietnam after 6 months of research and extensive first-hand interviews with workers. The facts are disturbing. Because they not only confirmed CBS News 48 Hours report in October but pointed to other problems at Nike factories: 1) inhumane rules where workers are not allowed to go to the bathroom more than once in one 8-hour shift 2) workers often faint while working on the assembly due to malnutrition, exhaustion, fume and heat, 3) workers are systemically cheated out of overtime and sunday wages. Please refer to VLW's report.
Jan 26, 1997. After interviews with workers, we confirmed that Nike factory workers are getting $47 per month, $2 above the legal minimum wage in Vietnam. This wage, however, is still not a living wage. In order for Nike to be claiming credits for raising the living standard in Vietnam, it needs to match or better Reebok's wage of $67 per month for entry level workers.
The other violations of Vietnamese laws brought forth by CBS News -- training wage period above 30 days and overtime hours above the 200 hour legal limit per year are still being practiced.
We would like to thank CBS News for bringing to light the problem of Nike workers being paid below the Vietnamese minimum wage. Without CBS, we believe such wage cheating would still be prevalent. Please call CBS News Executive Producer, Susan Zirinsky, 212.975.4848 to thank her for the good news and to ask her for more programs on Nike labor practices in Vietnam.
We also have obtained paystubs of several Nike factory workers. These paystubs prove conclusively that Nike subcontractors definitely violated Vietnamese labor laws as documented by CBS News and in our fact-sheet. Nike, therefore, still owns backpay to its factory workers for enduring wage cheating practices by Nike subcontractors.
Based on our analysis of the paystubs, Nike factory workers are working 26 to 27 days per month plus 40 to 65 hours of overtime. We recognize that Vietnam is a poor country but there must be a level of corporate decency for a US corporation operating in Vietnam -- especially when Nike promises to be a leader in its labor practice and to have 'no finish line' when it comes to the well-being of its factory workers
December 1996. Reebok has announced that it is making shoes in Vietnam. It is using a Vietnamese company, Hiep Hung, to make its shoes. The workers at Reebok factories will be making $67 a month which is much higher than Nike workers who are getting $45 a month. The good news about Reebok's announcement is that shoe manufacturers like Nike can no longer use the excuse that Vietnamse companies do not have the expertise to run a shoe factory. This reason is often used by Nike for sticking with those subcontractors even when they have a track record of worker abuse and operating boot camp factories.
Nike workers are definitely the lowest paid in the export production sector of Vietnam. Even within a low pay industry like the textile/clothing industry, we found several Vietnamese factories that pay higher wages than Nike factories i.e. Sewing Factory #10 in Saigon pays $90 a month to entry workers. We also confirmed that Coca Cola's entry level workers are paid $80 per month as reported by CBS News, despite Nike's claims that CBS news used the wrong figure in its 48 Hours report.