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The California Supreme Court Rules Nike Can Be Sued for Lying About Its Labor Practices, But the Aclu Sides with Nike: A Debate

May 08, 2002

The California Supreme Court has ruled Nike is liable for deceptive advertising and misleading public statements about labor conditions in the company’s factories in Asia.

The court declared that Nike and other corporations are not protected by the First Amendment when they make false statements about their labor policies or company operations in ads, press releases, or public statements.

Nike became a major target of labor and global justice campaigners in the mid-1990s. In 1996, CorpWatch got a hold of Nike’s own audit of a factory in Vietnam which showed that workers were exposed to toxic chemicals without protection or safety training and were forced to work illegal excess overtime. The story found its way to the front page of the New York Times.

Nike responded with a wide-ranging public relations campaign. It hired Goodworks International, a consultancy firm owned by former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, to audit some of its factories. Nike then advertised Goodworks’ more favorable conclusions in full-page newspaper ads and letters to university presidents and athletic directors.

California environmental activist Marc Kasky sued Nike in 1998 for false advertising. The ACLU filed briefs in support of Nike. Today, we will have a debate.


  • Medea Benjamin, Founding Director, Global Exchange.
  • Ann Brick, Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union. She worked on the case Kasky v. Nike.

Related links:


  • Every City, Every Ghetto–Lauren Hill, The Miseducdation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse CD).

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