Women Stand Up to Nike

When it comes to the way workers are treated in the global economy, you can count on Nike to do the right thing. As long as it's forced to, that is.

Take the example of Mexmode, a Mexican garment factory that churns out thousands of Nike sweatshirts each day. The factory employs mostly young, single mothers with little education. Until recently, the pay at Mexmode was abysmally poor, child labor was used, and managers verbally abused and harassed the women. The women finally got fed up -- literally -- when they began to find worms in the food that was served at the company cafeteria, where they had to eat. They decided to boycott the cafeteria -- a small act of defiance that got them fired.

Nike, which makes millions of dollars annually from sales of the sweatshirts made by the women, did nothing about the firings or the conditions. But two U.S. advocacy groups did. The Workers Rights Consortium and United Students Against Sweatshops sent investigators to Mexmode, then joined the women in an international protest campaign that included publicly embarrassing the corporation with demonstrations in front of Nike stores and offices.

This was putting such a stain on the corporate swoosh that Nike was forced to clean up its act at Mexmode. The child labor was stopped, and the women won their jobs back, got a pay raise, were allowed to form an independent union ... and got rid of that lousy cafeteria food.

Nike now cites Mexmode as an example of its commitment to treat workers fairly: "We remain vigilant about these issues," declared a corporate PR flack. But Nike only acted because these women forced it to. And before we applaud too loudly for Nike, note that the women at Mexmode still are paid the miserable wage of under $5 a day -- way too little to support them and their children.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Press releases aside, corporations give exactly as much fairness and justice as they are forced to give.

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