Uniqlo, Nike Targeted by Activists Over Factory Conditions

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Almost two years after the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh, brands are still being pressured to monitor conditions in their factories and to live up to their mission statements. 

Fast Retailing, parent of Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo, known for its fast-fashion ethos, is being challenged by Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) for “harsh and dangerous” working conditions at two Chinese factories that produce apparel for the company.

SACOM’s latest report found underpaid Chinese garment workers slaving for long hours, facing fines and punishments—not to mention sewage-covered factory floors, electrical safety issues, poor ventilation and temperatures of more than 100 degrees.[more]

“A report like this is disheartening, coming as it is not even two years after the tragedy in a garment factory in Bangladesh,” comments Retail Dive. “Fast Retailing is disputing the overall conclusions and some of the details in this particular report, but admits that it has found — and says it’s taking steps to remedy — problems with working conditions at the factories.”

SACOM calls out China’s Pacific Textiles and Luenthai Garment factories for paying employees as little as one-third the average monthly salary of other urban workers in Guangdong, thus forcing workers to volunteer to work overtime to take home an adequate wage. 

Back in the US, anti-sweatshop activist Jim Keady spoke to students at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia, continuing his one-man campaign against Nike, begun in the 1990’s when as St. John’s University graduate assistant soccer coach, he refused to wear Nike gear and was forced to resign, says Keady, although the university disputes his account.

“As a Catholic community, we have a different measuring stick for success,” he told the students, adding that over 90 percent of the clothing they were wearing was made in sweatshop conditions.

Marist’s athletic uniforms are made by Under Armour. “We view Mr. Keady’s presentation as a challenge to be conscious consumers and to seek ways to promote justice in our world,” said Father John Harhager, school president. “This means sometimes making difficult decisions even when they may not be easy or popular.”

Keady urged the students to boycott Nike products and email corporate leaders and sports celebrities who endorse Nike. He’s against brand logos on school uniforms, adding, “students should not be walking advertisements for transnational corporations.” Keady targets Nike, because, he argues, “when Nike goes, all these other companies will follow.” 

[Images via SACOM]

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