This past Tuesday, like other Georgetown students, I received a mass e-mail with the offer to buy season tickets for GU basketball. While the price – $125 – was a bit too much for my budget, something else chagrined me even more.

One simple symbol flitted through my mind -the Nike swoosh, a symbol that wields great power. Then I thought of Nike’s slogan, “Just do it,” and realized that this thought process must have been some kind of sign. In this case, Nike might have been right – I had to do it. I had to raise awareness of the fact that Nike has once again violated workers’ rights and consciously broken the law.

Last January, Nike closed down two facilities in Honduras that produce collegiate apparel after the workers attempted to unionize. It is not surprising that the factories were closed. The dismaying part is that workers in these factories were not paid their legally owed compensation or severance pay. These closures left 1,800 workers without their terminal compensation, or without certain pay for sick days, or even for hours worked. According to [The Seattle Times, the amount owed to the workers is more than $2.5 million](

In a country where about one-third of its people live on less than $2 per day and are barely able to meet subsistence needs, this type of disregard for human rights is appalling and creates unacceptable hardships for people who already face enough adversity. Sometimes a job in a factory is the best of their available options, and when they lose these jobs with no means to support themselves, little chance of finding further employment and no compensation, it makes one wonder: How do they eat? How do they survive? The answers to these questions would leave many uneasy, at best.

Nike, however, claims that the situation in Honduras (unstable after the coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from the country) is blocking them from taking action. But these are just excuses – for one, the factories closed well before the removal of Zelaya. Furthermore, as Angelina Godoy and James Gregory point out in The Seattle Times, “Nike’s claims that the situation prevents the company from addressing the problem are not credible. If anyone has freedom of movement and expression in Honduras under Roberto Micheletti’s right-wing regime, it is corporations like Nike.” Nike has not contacted the workers and did nothing when workers were denied access to machinery that they could have resold for compensation.

It seems as if for Nike, profits are more important than lives.

Nike isn’t the only one that needs to bear responsibility, however. We, as consumers, also need to wake up and jolt ourselves out of our passivity, as do universities that license Nike. It is clear from the Workers Rights Consortium database that Georgetown is also responsible. The facility in question is Hugger de Honduras, which produces for Nike, a large proportion of which is composed of collegiate apparel. Georgetown sold apparel produced at Hugger de Honduras.

Georgetown’s Code of Conduct for all of its licensees is clear: All licensees, (and their contractors, which include each contractor, subcontractor, vendor or manufacturer that engages in manufacturing process that results in a finished product for the consumer) must adhere to all laws and must ensure that workers are fairly compensated.

But it does not seem like Georgetown is taking any steps to ensure that Nike gets reprimanded or that some remediation takes place, as stated in the code. Georgetown supposedly adheres to socially responsible practices and conducts its business affairs consistent with the Jesuit tradition and educational mission (I am inclined to question, “What would Jesus do?”) – but it hasn’t shown much regard for the workers who work long hours producing the gray and blue shirts that end up flooding bleachers, or the jerseys that players proudly sport.

This, obviously, isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Worse abuses have been reported in many factories throughout Latin America and around the world. In fact, as I write this, many labor rights abuses are occurring, most of which we will never hear about. These topics do not make mainstream media coverage (and may never make it into any media). This is why Nike gets away with it, every time. Perhaps not this time.

We are kept in the dark, eclipsed by our own unwillingness to see and to act. But we do have the power to change this. The power of the Nike swoosh doesn’t compare to the power of collective action. Georgetown has to put pressure on Nike, along with other schools. But in order for that to happen, students have to put pressure on Georgetown.

Just do it.

Vedrana Durakovic is a student in the masters program in conflict resolution.

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