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UA students to tour Nike apparel factories

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 4, 1999
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Nike has taken another step in its attempt to gain the trust and support of students at universities it has licensing contracts with by sending college students to check out apparel factories.

The first of two students who will be sent to a Nike factory of his or her choice has been selected by the University of Arizona College of Business.

Matthew Milsovic, a business graduate student, was chosen and the other student will be picked by the University of Arizona Labor Rights Task Force, which meets tonight to discuss the topic.

The College of Business had all interested students in the college submit a one-page essay that was judged without the students' names. Milsovic said he looks forward to the opportunity.

"I need to get an unbiased view of what's going on," Milsovic said. "I look at what Nike is doing from a business standpoint, and I understand what they (Students Against Sweatshops) are coming from."

The SAS has raised questions concerning the legitimacy of Nike's new-found openness concerning their manufacturing operations.

"I think what's needed isn't sweatshop tourism but a more reliable monitoring system," said Tim Bartley, sociology graduate student and SAS member.

One of the concerns is that Nike is sponsoring the factory tour, and that they may only show the students their best facilities, making the tour ineffective as a monitoring trip.

"Nike seems to have floated this idea without any specifications," said Avery Kolers, SAS spokesman and philosophy graduate student. "All the stuff that would change this from sight-seeing to actual monitoring has not been specified by Nike."

Kolers cited whether or not the factories would be warned or if the students could visit the homes of workers as examples of conditions that Nike has not specified. He added that he considered it a "half-baked proposal."

"Personally, I'm highly suspicious of this proposal," Kolers said. "That sentiment is pretty wide spread in the group."

This trip is the second move Nike has made since the wave of opposition by student anti-sweatshop groups, including a 10-day sit-in at UA President Peter Likins' office lobby in April.

Nike also disclosed the locations of 41 factories last month on their Web site in a new advertising campaign targeting students.

"To put this in perspective, there are over a quarter million students on college campuses right now who aren't old enough to work in a Nike footwear factory," stated one of the new Nike advertisements. "It's a fact. A fact verified by independent monitoring organizations."

UA President Peter Likins agreed that this is not a solution, but a step in the right direction.

"I am very pleased with the gesture Nike has made, but it shouldn't be misinterpreted as anything more than it is," Likins said.

He also said that what will eventually be needed is a more systematic monitoring system, but that the tour is a good start.

The SAS has no official position on the Nike monitoring tour at the moment, only a tentative decision to wait and receive more information from the task force, Kolers said.

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