Nike Manager Admits to Sweatshops, Pressure Escalates at U of Washington

USAS members and alum in Seattle have educated consumers outside the Niketown store day after day this week.

USAS members and alum in Seattle have educated consumers outside the Niketown store day after day this week.

As student activists continue to step up efforts to educate consumers at Nike retail stores across the country, positive feedback is pouring.  One concerned customer e-mailed USAS to let us know that when he spoke with a Niketown store manager, the manager assured the customer that while Nike does in fact produce its apparel in sweatshops, Nike would be “closing them down” soon.  This is obviously nonsense:  first, it would amount to Nike abandoning workers rather than fixing problems.  Secondly, in the current cases of Hugger de Honduras and Vision Tex, the entire problem is that the factories already shut down due to Nike shifting its orders elsewhere

Meanwhile, the pressure is mounting on President Mark Emmert of the University of Washington as he continues to refuse taking meaningful action compelling Nike to pay the $2.2 million owed workers.  Last week over three dozen local community leaders wrote to Emmert urging him to follow the recommendation of his own advisory committee on licensing and pledge not to renew Nike’s contract with the UW.

Emmert snubbed the community leaders with this 50-word response from his Blackberry:

From: “MARK A. EMMERT” <email hidden; JavaScript is required>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2010 10:00:06 -0700
Subject: Re: Nike’s Predatory Exploitation of Workers, Lack of Response by the University of Washington

Rod and Colleagues,

Thank you for your letter. I very much appreciate your interest and concern and will keep them in mind as we move forward on this matter.

Please know that I remain attentive to it these issues. I am also actively involved in conversations with other institutions and entities.

Thank you for your engagement.


Mark Emmert

[ sent via BlackBerry ]

While President Emmert and other university officials keep busy with those “institutions and entities”, workers in Honduras are facing the harsh realities of going unemployed for nearly a year and half.  Since the two Nike supplier factories closed in January 2009 and workers face anti-union blacklisting at other workplaces, most of the 1,800 ex-workers are struggling to put food on the table.  Still, the ex-workers have kept up the pressure on Nike in Honduras.

Do your part to pressure Nike to Just Pay It!  Contact email hidden; JavaScript is required to get involved.

About the Author

Jack Mahoney is a National Organizer for USAS. Jack coordinates our campaigns in solidarity with campus workers, along with various other duties. He graduated in 2008 from Georgetown University, where as a USAS member he organized with campus janitors for a landmark union victory for living wages.