A series of firings at a Mexican textile plant that makes clothing for Nike and Reebok has thrown a spotlight on theUS sportswear companies’ claim that they does not condone sweatshop labor.
About 800 of Kukdong’s 850 workers at Kukdong International, a Korean-owned company in Mexico’s central Puebla state,went on strike last week and later occupied the plant after five labor leaders were fired. They had been trying toorganize their own union after complaints of worm-infested food, poor working conditions and physical mistreatment.
People on the scene reported police violence and continuing harassment of workers. Workers said they were barredfrom returning to work this week and were forced to sign letters of resignation.
The Mexican factory supplies sweatshirts to at least 14 US universities, including the University of Michigan and theUniversity of California, Berkeley. Under US trade law, US companies need not disclose what overseas factories theycontract with. But pressure from US universities, some of which threatened to stop buying clothing from companiesthat use sweatshop labor, force Nike and other manufacturers to identify subcontractors and establish a monitoringprogram.
Nike said a compliance officer is monitoring the situation and the company will investigate allegations of workermistreatment once the labor dispute is resolved.
But some students and labor groups are not taking Nike at its word and have sent their own monitors. Some of them arewith us today.
Nike declined to participate in today’s this discussion.
- Hanna Halbert, United Students Against Sweat Shops, Transylvania University, Kentucky.
- Jeff Hermanson, representative American Center for International Labor Solidarity, AFL-CIO in Mexico City
- Ernesto Alvarez, Mexican witness to violence by police on Thursday, January 11 against the strikers.