HIGHTOWER: Nike: An Indonesian Hog

Today's big fat porker is Phil Knight, head honcho of Nike Inc. With its massive advertising budget and its "swooshtika" logo plastered on Michael Jordon, Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice and hundreds of other star athletes in every sport this side of Tiddlywinks, Nike rakes-in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits every year. Phil Knight himself has hauled-off enough in ill-gotten shoe profits to become the sixth richest man in America.Phil makes his by making sure that the workers who make Nikes are poorly paid. The company long ago abandoned American shoe-makers and moved their operations to Asia, where it routinely hires young girls in its sweatshops, paying them pennies to make a pair of shoes it sells here for $180.Knight gets all red-faced and puffs-up with indignation when confronted with his exploitation, claiming that these Asian workers are paid at least the minimum wage in their countries. But wait a minute, minimum wages in Asia are not even minimal, failing to cover the cost of food, much less a decent living. Minimum wage in Vietnam, for example is $1.60 a day -- about 16-cents an hour for the 10-hour days these girls are made to work.In Indonesia, where 40,000 workers make Nikes, the government recently raised the minimum from $2.16 a day to $2.36. But Nike has balked and is seeking an exemption from the new law, asserting that this extra 20-cents would be a [quote] "hardship" on the company. This from a company making $8 billion a year.Philip Knight has made Nike the Ugly American -- a corporate symbol of global greed and exploitation.Next time you see the Nike "swoosh" plastered on some superstar who's been bought by Phil Knight . . . remember the 20-cents-a-day he denied these impoverished Indonesian workers.Source:"Nike plants balk at $2.36 a day" by Jeff Manning. Portland Oregonian: April 3, 1997. "Nike's Boot camps" by Bob Herbert. New York Times: March 31, 1997.

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