Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nike to pay over $2 million to workers in Honduras

Yesterday, Nike spokeswoman Kate Meyers announced that Nike would pay $1.54 million to help more than 1,800 workers in Honduras who had been laid off by Nike subcontractors. The subcontractors Hugger and Vision text had been operating in Honduras producing Nike products, but they had failed to pay over $2 million in severance pay to their workers after closing their factories. Nike had originally claimed that it was the responsibility of the subcontractors to deal with workers pays and severance, even though this violated Nike's code of conduct.

However, numerous universities and student groups spoke out against Nike's statement. Notably, the University of Wisconsin canceled it's contract with Nike, while Cornell and the University of Washington threatened to do the same. The United Students Against Sweatshops held protests and spearheaded the movement to get Nike to pay up. In November of 2009, over 100 universities boycotted Russell Athletics, who had fired 1,200 workers in Honduras following the establishment of a workers union, until they rehired everyone who had lost their job. Alex Bores, president of the United Students Against Sweatshops chapter at Cornell, says that Nike is directly responsible for the conditions these workers face and should thus be responsible for their compensation: “Nike plays factory against factory, causing them to shave a penny here and a penny there, creating an ultra-competitive environment that drives down wages and gives factory owners virtually no choice but to disrespect workers’ basic rights.”

While Nike still maintains that severance pay is the responsibility of subcontractors, it worked with the Central General de Trabajadores, the Honduran labor Federation, to find a way to improve the livelihoods of the people who had lost their jobs. Nike's $1.54 million will go towards providing vocational training programs for the workers and to give preference to the workers who had lost their jobs when hiring at their other factories.

-Matthew Thwaites


"Pressured, Nike to Help Workers in Honduras"-NY Times, "Nike ends Honduran workers dispute" Portland Business Journal