An independent non-profit labor-and-trade-monitoring organization has sent an investigative team to a Nike factory in exico to evaluate conditions there two years after Georgetown joined the fight to protect the rights of workers that make Georgetown apparel.

Verite, a factory monitoring group, has been chosen by Nike to investigate the situation at the Kukdong factory in Mexico, where workers are beginning to return to work after work stoppages, according to a Feb. 8th Nike press release.

The Kukdong factory produced Nike clothing until December and has also produced apparel for Reebok.

Workers at the Nike-related factory were recently involved in a labor dispute because the factory is a closed shop, meaning that workers must belong to a particular union if they want to work there. Workers expressed dissatisfaction with the union, and instituted a work stoppage.

According to the press release, workers have been mandated to recognize their current union due to a collective bargaining agreement between Kukdong and the union.

“Workers returning to their jobs at the factory must recognize [the union] as their representative union in order to be re-hired,” Nike said. “However, once re-employed, workers have the right to seek an election and a new representative union.”

Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility for Nike Amanda Tucker said that Nike supports workers choosing a union they think will best represent them, and added that choosing a union must be done through an election.

“[Nike] can’t dictate one union or another; that wouldn’t be appropriate,” Tucker said.

The Verite team will assess the situation in the factory by examining “child labor, working conditions, disciplinary practices, grievance procedures, harassment and abuse, wages and compensation,” the press release said.

Tucker said that Verite will send an observer and audit the factory.

“There are a couple of things simultaneously going on … Verite is watching workers coming back after strike … and the audit [involves determining the] factory’s compliance to codes.”

Verite will be auditing the Kukdong factory, a Korean-owned factory, to assess if there is full compliance with the Fair Labor Association worker’s rights codes and Nike and Reebok codes, Tucker said. The sets of codes are similar, although Nike has stronger child labor law provisions; the age standards are higher for Nike codes as compared to FLA codes.

“[FLA’s age is] 15, Nike’s age standards are higher with 16 for apparel and 18 for footwear,” Tucker said.

The press release indicated that more than 500 of the 800 workers have returned to work at Kukdong.

Georgetown Solidarity Committee Chief Organizer Marya Murray (SFS ’01) said that the committee’s general position is to “support factory workers whether they are faced with small infractions or large infractions.”

Exactly two years ago, GSC participated in an 89-hour sit-in in the office of University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., to protest the working conditions in factories producing officially licensed Georgetown apparel. As a result of the sit-in, Georgetown created the Licensing Implementation Committee to confront similar issues in the future. Georgetown has since joined and left the FLA and become a member of the Workers’ Rights Consortium, a rival monitoring organization.


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