July 07, 2017
Nike is a brand that’s used to a lot of scrutiny. Since the 1990s, they’ve weathered multiple exposés and campaigns about the conditions under which their clothes are manufactured. But despite the hard work of workers and activists, the conditions in those factories can still be dire. Right now, in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, workers regularly suffer mass faintings, wage theft and gender-based violence in the workplace. And Nike is going to great lengths to keep that fact covered up.
Nike attempts to hide the mistreatment of its workers by not allowing independent labor rights monitors to inspect the factories where its shoes and other products are made to insure that workers are not being paid poverty wages or exposed to dangerous conditions on the job. Instead, it is only allowing monitors it hires to do inspections.
Trusting Nike is difficult when it has a long history of using sweatshop labor.
United Students Against Sweatshops is holding a Global Day of Action Against Nike, and we ask our supporters to add their voices to the call for Nike to #JustDoTheRightThing. The day of action will take place on July 29th, 2017, with actions in more than 25 cities across five continents. There are lots of ways to support, such as:
Join an Action Near You! Stand with students and community members in your city. Click on the city for details for actions taking place across the country. Actions are already planned in: New York City, Washington D.C., Seattle, Boston , Denver, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Jackson, MS, San Francisco, CA , Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Columbus, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland OR and more.
Sign a Petition to Nike! Add your name to the call for Nike to stop hiding abuses at its factories.
Sample Facebook Post 1:
Don’t buy #NikeLies! Nike will have you believe they promote #equality and empower women, but continue to exploit the labor of working women inside their factories.
I support students and workers fighting back against the worst boss of all – NIKE!
Sample Facebook Post 2:
Looks like Nike is returning to it’s infamous sweatshop legacy. Since restricting independent factory inspector, the Workers Rights Consortium, Nike has pulled production from factories where workers dare speak up, most recently in Honduras where hundreds of workers lost jobs after Nike pulled from their union factory. #NikeSweatshops
Click to Tweet: Don’t Buy #NikeLies, solidarity with Honduran Nike workers!
Click to Tweet: What does Nike have to hide, let the WRC inside! #NikeLies
Click to Tweet: Nike, #JustDoTheRightThing for workers!
USAS has loads of more good information here.
July 07, 2017
As people ask how things are going with The Human Thread, my most regular reply of late has been “trabajo de hormigas.” From Spanish, quite literally, it is “ant work.” The Chileans, among whom I most often heard it said, understand it to be meticulous work, slow work. Just as ants move small objects (although large in comparison to their bodies), the advancement of dignity, decent work, just wages, and workplace safety is slow in progress, but it has dramatic results in the lives of tens of millions around the globe.
Yesterday, it was announced that Cornell university cut ties with Nike. The result of a two-year campaign by students in Cornell Organization for Labor Action, this administration decision joins Cornell with Rutgers, Georgetown, UC Santa Barbara and Northeastern. This effort began when Nike refused to allow the Workers Rights Consortium to independently monitor its factories. It is pleasing to see Cornell University take these steps. Frankly, if other colleges and universities would stand by their values, the conditions for garment workers around the world will improve. For that matter, if we as consumers, demand better, more complete information and stand by our values, conditions will improve.
It is indeed slow, meticulous work, but we must savor the gradual growth of a movement in a genuine fashion makeover. We want a fashion makeover, not for some clothes that will be out of style in the fall, but for clothes made in justice. If we each do our part, we will achieve, together, a bold example of the “trabajo de hormigas.”
Perhaps it is worth sharing what is known as the Romero prayer.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw
*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him. For more information, visit the USCCB.
December 12, 2016
While every scorecard comes with a caveat that none are perfect, we here at The Human Thread think that this scorecard is very important. Know The Chain, a San Francisco-based company that works with businesses and investors (including the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility) on issues of labor abuse, ranked 20 large apparel and footwear companies based on their efforts to eradicate forced labor and human trafficking from their supply chains.
This study shines light on the apparel brands that are making the greatest efforts to address exploitation. On topm footwear giant Adidas scored 81 points out of 100. Among apparel companies, Gap Inc. leads the way, scoring 77 points out of 100. Swedish fast fashion behemoth H & M and Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon tied for third on the list, both scoring 69 points.
The rankings employed a sophisticated methodology of seven areas of measurement. The average score was 46 out of a possible 100. Sadly, luxury brands including Hugo Boss, Kering (holding company of Gucci, among others) and Ralph Lauren scored much lower than fast fashion retailers like H&M, Inditex or Primark. Three companies scored less than 25 out of 100 points: China’s number-one shoe retailer Belle International Holdings (0), Chinese clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group Holdings (1), and Prada (9).
Two areas of particular concerns are under the study’s headings of “Recruitment” and “Worker Voice and Remedy.” On the latter topic, the rankings also underscore that only four companies on the survey were rated as efficiently magnifying worker’s voices to upper management, and only five companies were found to engage workers outside of the context of their workplace in a manner that gives them more voice.
In the area of “Recuitment,” a place of major risk in forced labor and trafficking, companies fall short in their recruitment practices. Only six companies require that no fees be charged during any recruitment process conducted throughout the supply chain, and only two companies encourage direct hiring of workers in their supply chains. Poor recruitment practices, including excessive fees, leave workers vulnerable and open to exploitation, particularly through debt bondage.
The report suggests that these fundamental areas that leave workers vulnerable have yet to be addresses in significant ways by the retailers.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 21 million people are victims of forced labor globally, with the apparel and footwear industry an ‘at-risk’ sector, especially as it is a rapidly growing field of employment. While in 2000 the global garment industry employed around 20 million workers, this has at least tripled to 60- 75 million workers in 2014, three-quarters of whom are women.
Again, recalling the caveat that no scorecard is perfect, Know The Chain based the study on “assessed information available on each company’s own website, as well as additional public disclosure that 80% of the companies provided in response to engagement questions.” The information used to compile each company’s rank was self-supplied by the companies that were ranked. Thus, the reliability – or lack thereof – of the information provided by the ranked companies is a critical factor in terms of gauging the ranking’s accuracy.
The complete report can be found here: http://www.humanthreadcampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/KTC_AF_ExternalReport_Final.pdf
December 12, 2016
This morning, students from Georgetown University occupied the office of university president, John J. DeGioia. According to the students’ press release (georgetown-usas-press-release):
twenty student activists at Georgetown University began an occupation of University President John J. DeGioia’s office demanding that the school’s administration refuse to renew their licensing contract with Nike. The students, led by members of worker solidarity organization Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC), a United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) affiliate, are vowing to stay in the President’s office until he takes action.
— GU Solidarity (@gtownsolidarity) December 8, 2016
Recipient of Nike’s largest Air Jordan contract, Georgetown was notified in October 2015 of abuses of worker’s rights at the Hansae factory in Vietnam, a likely site for the production of Georgetown collegiate apparel. The violations, confirmed two days ago in a report by the Workers Rights Consortium, include work in extreme heat (factory temperatures above 90 degrees), inducing severe fainting. Additional abuses profiled in the report include “the systematic firing of pregnant workers, wage theft, and other unsafe working conditions.”Occupying the president’s office is a significant action that comes on the heels of more than a year of dialogue with the university administration. This is not the first attempt by the students to convince the university to change their practice:
The timing of action from these students is critical as Georgetown’s contract expires on December 31. Even as the Vatican commits to “slave-proof” its supply chains, we do not want Georgetown to roll back its commitment to the rights of workers. Without going into all the specifics, the issue amounts to this: if Georgetown signs the agreement, without a commitment from Nike to the licensee code of conduct, then other Catholic universities with Nike licensing agreements (or with other companies) may follow suit in a way that would do grave harm to the rights of workers and roll back progress made in 2000 by an earlier generation of college students and university administrators.
Georgetown, which has acknowledged and repented its historical involvement in the slave trade, should not get renewed in any form of complicity in what Pope Francis has called “slave labor.” We admire the witness of solidarity of these university students, who, risking arrest, seek to stand with the workers who make the apparel that bears the name of their university. We see them living the highest ideals of a Jesuit education “women and men for others.” We, too, want their university put its words (the code of conduct for licensees) into action. While essential for any university, this is vital for a Catholic university. Georgetown is a leader in Catholic higher education, and we hope it will witness to its purported high standards. When students and student athletes wear Georgetown sportswear, we agree that they should be clothed in compassion, rather than exploitation.