The Feminist Majority joined the National Organization for Women and other women’s organizations in deploring Nike’s use of overseas sweatshops which exploit women workers, paying them as little as 20 cents per hour or $1.60 a day in Vietnam – hardly enough to eat on, let alone pay rent, clothing, health care and more. Nike women’s empowerment ads aimed at the US market are in sharp contrast to the treatment of women workers in these sweatshops. Eighty to ninety percent of the workers in these sweatshops of Vietnam, Indonesia, and China are women.
Women’s groups have applauded the women’s empowerment messages of Nike ads. However, young women in Nike subcontracted factories in Southeast Asia also have a right both to self-empowerment and a decent wage.
“The message in Nike’s women’s empowerment ads are strong,” said Feminist Majority President, Eleanor Smeal, “but there’s a disconnect between that message and the way Nike pays and treats its workers, especially its women workers. Sweatshops, which all of us thought were a thing of the past, are back again. And just like the feminists at the turn of the century fought sweatshops, it’s incumbent on us to do the same.”
Just 10% of Nike’s annual $978 million a year advertising budget would lift Nike’s subcontracted workers’ wages to a livable level. “The treatment and pay of women workers in Southeast Asia must be higher on Nike’s priority list,” said Smeal. “Like the economy is global, the women’s movement is global. Women in the United States must leverage our consumer power for these exploited women. We cannot tolerate inhumane wages or sexual harassment in the United States or abroad.”
Women’s groups are calling for an increase in wages for Nike subcontracted workers and for local independent monitors to ensure compliance with local labor laws and Nike’s code of conduct.
The Feminist Majority, a non-profit organization, works toward achieving political, social, and economic equality for all women. The Feminist Majority is in the forefront of creating innovative feminist research, education, and training programs for women’s equality and empowerment both in the United States and abroad.