Nike stands by its conditional promise
Nike Inc. officials yesterday said universities hold greater leverage than Nike and other corporations in gaining full disclosure of overseas factory locations through student-driven movements.
During a telephone press conference, Nike representative Brad Feigel said the company stood by its offer to disclose factory locations, but only if universities will demand the same from other manufacturers.
"We don't have leverage on other companies," said Dusty Kidd, Nike director of labor practices. "Universities do have some leverage."
The Fair Labor Association, a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor, garnered praise from Nike representatives despite university outcry for specific factory addresses.
University of Arizona President Peter Likins joined the FLA as a starting point for an acceptable labor code, although critics said the association is too weak to control apparel corporations with university contracts.
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"Nike is part of the FLA, the university is part of the FLA - I look forward to that organization to handle (sweatshop elimination)," Likins said.
The FLA, a division of the Apparel Industry Partnership, is composed of corporations, human rights groups and universities.
Philip Knight, Nike's chief executive officer, sent a letter March 10 to various university presidents encouraging them to join the organization.
"The reason we want the universities involved is that we want one uniform process that everyone works under," Feigel said.
However, officials from Students Against Sweatshops criticized the FLA as a lenient policy for corporations to join - not the beginning of a better code.
"They're hoping it will be a finish, not a start," said Avery Kolers, an SAS member at the UA.
Kolers also said corporations do not intend to further strengthen the FLA, adding that the university has the power to demand factory locations, but neither Likins or Nike will push the FLA to change.
"It's not surprising," he said. "It's a nice way to not do anything."
Kolers said both the corporation and the university continue to assign the responsibility to each other, and aren't taking any action to create a strict labor code.
Feigel said a clause in the FLA code disclosing factory locations scared away some corporations, forcing the organization to compromise and disappoint human rights groups.
But Kolers said a labor code should not have to appease corporations. He suggested that the UA join the University Coalition Against Sweatshops, a University of California organization that doesn't involve corporations.