HIGHTOWER: Ernst & Young's Nike Report

It's upsetting enough to step in a big, gooey wad of chewing gum, but it's all the more infuriating to step in your own chewing gum.But that's what Nike just did.The $9 billion a year shoe giant, which keeps insisting that its Asian factories are not despicable sweatshops, but models of good working conditions, suddenly has a nasty wad of gum stuck on its high-dollar shoes.This mess comes from Ernst & Young, the corporate accounting firm that was hired by Nike itself to do a confidential report on its Tae Kwang Vina factory in Vietnam. According to the New York Times, this is one of Nike's largest plants, with 9,200 workers churning out 400,000 pairs of pricey sneakers each month. One suspects that Philip Knight, Nike's sanctimonious, billionaire honcho, hoped to use the report to silence critics of abuses in his low-wage factories.But Knight got way more than he bargained for. The Times reports that Ernst & Young found dismal conditions at the Tae Kwang Vina factory, with [quote] "thousands of young women, most under age 25, laboring 10 1/2 hours a day, six days a week, in excessive heat and noise and in foul air, for slightly more than $10 a week."Especially damning was the report on the suffocating quality of the air in Nike's factory. The accounting firm recorded levels of Toluene, a cancer-causing chemical, that were 177 times the amount allowed under Vietnamese health and safety laws. Extended exposure to this chemical does damage to the liver, kidneys and the central nervous system.Nike tried to bury this report, but a disgusted employee finally blew the whistle, so now it's stuck with a confirmation of its sweatshop abuses by its own accountants.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Next time you see one of Nike's self-serving image ads ... remember the cold hard facts of what Ernst & Young found inside Nike.Source:"Nike shoe plant in Vietnam is called unsafe for workers" by Steven Greenhouse. New York Times: Nov. 8, 1997.

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