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April 14, 2005

Nike: 650,000 Employees Worldwide

Here's how to really think about the economic power of global corporations: count all the employees at the firms working on contract to the big multinationals.

Take Nike, who to its credit released a report detailing the location and operations of its subcontractors around the world. While Nike itself has a relatively small direct payroll, its 700 contractors around the world employ 650,000 workers.

This is another way to understand why these "retailers" like Nike or, even more so, Wal-Mart are such power players in the world. They are "bosses" to employees around the world and, through their contracting decisions, have far more power than their nominal employment numbers would indicate.

Sadly-- and this is by a company that's trying to improve conditions -- the treatment of workers in many of Nike's factories are terrible:

The company said it audited hundreds of factories in 2003 and 2004 and found cases of "abusive treatment", physical and verbal, in more than a quarter of its south Asian plants.

Between 25% and 50% of the factories in the region restrict access to toilets and drinking water during the workday.

The same percentage deny workers at least one day off in seven.

In more than half of Nike's factories, the report said, employees worked more than 60 hours a week. In up to 25%, workers refusing to do overtime were punished.

Wages were also below the legal minimum at up to 25% of factories.

Look at that last line-- these factories aren't even meeting the low legal wage requirements of their own countries.

But the fact that Nike is even documenting the problems is the result of global organizing to hold the company accountable and is the first step to holding all multinational corporations accountable for the treatment of workers in their subcontractors around the world.

So despite some of the bad news in the report, the existence of the report is itself a reason to cheer.

Posted by Nathan at April 14, 2005 09:04 AM