After suddenly laying off over 1,800 workers from two local factories (ie. sweatshops) in Honduras, Nike agreed to create a $1.54 million “workers relief fund” this past week. The money from this fund will be used to provide unemployed workers with vocational training while also guaranteeing these workers priority hiring when the next factory opens. Oh my God- a multinational corporation (MNC) following through on a promise to workers?! Not quite. First, the actual payment should have been over $2 million according to Honduran labor laws and standards. Before we get all sentimental about this supposedly altruistic $1.54 million donation, we also have to realize this amount (although seemingly infinite to a starving college student) is quite literally small change to Nike. Nike reported over $19 billion in revenues just last year. Lastly, an active reader has to question why Nike suddenly closed down the factory in the first place. Chances are, they found another subcontractor that promises cheaper costs through more “efficient” production means. By “efficient” production, they mean paying the workers less money to do the same work. Come on Nike- are we really supposed to be impressed with this?
Having said that, Nike’s actions brings hope to several workers rights activists. Scott Nova, director of the Workers Rights Consortium, argues that Nike’s actions “will give labor advocates a stronger basis in the future. They can point to this precedent now and say that no less a brand than Nike agreed that companies have an obligation to do more than just cajole these factories.” In addition, students in universities rallied to demand fair severance payments from Nike for the Honduran workers. Groups like United Students Against Sweatshops, chanted “Just Pay It” in front of Nike stores all over the country. Although Nike’s actions establish a cautiously hopeful precedent, we cannot become complacent and passive to this phenomenon.
Sweatshops (although MNC's would like them to seem like an inevitable part of globalization) are not just a problem for third world countries. Learn about sweatshops in Los Angeles and what you can do about them.