It’s one thing to be an activist in a certain category, like food, and another to be a social justice activist in general. Jim Keady, the founder of Team Sweat, is a social justice activist who has traveled to Indonesia and beyond discovering first-hand the inhumane ways that Nike (as well as many other famous companies) treats their workers. While it may sound outdated, and many believe they don’t exist anymore, it is a fact that Nike still employs hard-labor workers to live on a dollar (yes, a dollar) everyday for the work they put in. Because Keady went to Indonesia along with a friend of his, and lived there for a month in the same conditions that real Nike workers have to live in every single day, he knows exactly what the reality of that paycheck means. Being forced to sleep in a bare room, on an uneven cement floor, on a thin mat, with no air conditioning, fist-sized cockroaches crawling over you at night, a sewer behind your shack that carries all the human waste from your area, and rats crawling through your toilet at night looking for food; Keady saw that they are anything but humane living conditions. Furthermore, the extra rubber they use for the shoes ends up being lit on fire in parks where children play, releasing extremely harmful carcinogens in the air, and causing many children to have severe respiratory problems. So, while these workers are struggling to survive on a dollar a day, what does life for Nike’s CEO look like?
The April 10, 2011 edition of the NY Times reported that Mr. Parker’s total compensation for fiscal year 2010 was $13,118,834.00.
If we divide that number by 365 days, that means that Mr. Parker averaged $35,942.00 in pay per day in 2010.
He was paid $35,942 per day and he never had to work a hot press or operate a sewing machine to meet the production targets. He was paid $35,942 per day and he was never screamed at by his supervisors to meet the production targets. He was paid $35,942 per day and he never had to throw his exhausted body on a thin mat on a cement floor after working a full shift, plus overtime, to meet the production targets. http://www.teamsweat.org/?cat=16
Those of you reading my blog are either interested in healthy, delicious recipes, or are interested in getting involved in the food revolution in America. My reason for writing this blog is to educate people on the injustices that I have learned about in the food industry in America, as well as using it as a valuable resource to educate people on justice issues in general. If you are still reading my blog, chances are you agree with my philosophy and passion for justice, whether that may be in the food we use to make ourselves the healthiest we can be, or whether it be for political reasons such as treating farmers and the earth well and increasing sustainability. But, considering that, as a very wealthy country, which makes an incredible impact on the world around us, and that we have the opportunity to vote everyday for what we support by our purchases, it is vital that we stand up for the things we think are wrong, no matter what the category.
If I only made 1 dollar a day, I could provide one ingredient on my blog, and wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything for the rest of the day. It costs $2.48 of labor to create 1 pair of Air Jordans, which cost over $250.00 per pair in America. If Nike is charging that much for the pair of sneakers that only cost them a total of $16 to create (when you look into overhead, factory costs), think about the amount of profit they are making on that.
For workers in places like Indonesia, if they mess up, they are verbally abused, beaten, and forced into “sun drenching”, which is a punishment where they must go outside in the heat of the sun at 12pm, and bake in the sun as punishment, many have been killed for non-compliance, and if you want to go to the factories to investigate, you will be tracked down and beaten, much like Jim Keady experienced.
What’s more is that we are so incredibly lucky. I am lucky to have this blog, the education I have had, and the luxuries of living in a country where I can get a job, be paid fairly, and not be beaten or killed if I mess up. You who are reading this are priveleged to own some sort of electronic device that enables you to have access to information and resources that are unthinkable in other countries. Thus, you, like me, have a moral responsibility to speak up for those that do not have such blessings. You have the ability to use your gifts and prove to the world that you have inherent dignity and you can influence people with what makes you unique. Forget creativity, talent, enthusiasm, passion in a country like Indonesia, where manual labor is all they have and they don’t make near minimum wage.
When it comes down to it, the truth is that our purchasing power is extremely impactful. Just as you choose discretely which food to buy, you should also use discretion in which brands you buy. It’s not enough to stop with Fair Trade chocolate and organic milk. We must be aware of every part of our spending power that affects other people. Start by boycotting Nike. They have the biggest share in the sneakers, fitness market, and they have been using sweatshops for over 20 years to get to where they are today. Many other major companies, including: Ralph Lauren, Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Old Navy, Target, Reebok, Addidas, all employ sweatshops.
If you want to make a change, email firstname.lastname@example.org personally, and tell him that you too would like Nike to become Fair Trade otherwise you will not buy Nike products anymore. You may be thinking that he has many email filters and doesn’t even read these emails, but Jim Keady gave us this email himself at a lecture today, and he converses directly with him through this address, and he knows that Parker receives them. Please also watch this video, so you can learn about Jim Keady’s pursuit for justice. He is an inspiration. If we get people talking about this very-much-alive issue, things will change. Already Cornell and the University of Wisconsin have gotten rid of their contracts with Nike because of student run organizations and have even caused Nike to give back much deserved money to sweatshop workers.
Thanks for reading!!!