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questions as to the motives of these critical scholars, arguing their findings are colored by “biases introducedby ideology, ethnocentrism, and vested political interests.”31Whatever the case, women dominate light assembly industries in EPZs. This is also true with the productionof athletic footwear, despite the fact that almost none of the women in question work for the company whosename is on the shoes they produce.The Sweatshop DisputeThe fact that Nike does not own the factories where Nike shoes are produced is especially important becauseKnight and the company he founded have been at the forefront of the debate over working conditions inthese factories for some time. Labor activists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), women's groups,and human rights activists have long claimed that the footwear and apparel industries have relied upon“sweatshops.” Although several issues have been raised under this charge, the most common concerns havebeen wages, hours, working conditions, the ability to organize unions, and physical treatment of workers.Women such as Le, they charge, arrive at work and are frequently overseen by supervisors who do not speakthe same language, who frequently use militaristic discipline and corporal punishment, require overtime, havereportedly sexually harassed the workers, and even limit bathroom breaks to as few as two in a twelve-hourshift.Nike has long been a leading target of these charges and, although always denying them, the companyhas changed its response over time. Indicative of Nike's early approach was an incident in the early 1990swhen labor disturbances were reported in six Indonesian factories due to working conditions. Nike officialsdistanced the company from the conflict by maintaining that as a purchaser rather than employer, it took noresponsibility for working conditions in the factory.“It's not within our scope to investigate,” said John Woodman, Nike general manager in Indonesia at the time.When asked if he knew what the disputes were about, he said he had not asked. “I don't know that I need toknow.”32Nike maintained this hands-off position for several years, despite growing claims by critics that, as a buyer ofshoes built on specification, the company does have the responsibility and crucial leverage when it comes towhat goes on in the factories where Nike shoes are built.“We don't pay anybody at the factories and we don't set policy within the factories,” said one company official.“[I]t is their business to run.”33Table 1. Cost of $70 pair of Nike shoes:37SAGE© 2000 Institute for the Study of DiplomacyBusiness CasesPage 7 of 19Sweating the Swoosh: Nike, the Globalization of Sneakers, and theQuestion on Sweatshop Labor
Labor$2.75Materials9.00Rent, Equipment3.00Supplier Profit1.75Duties3.00Shipping.50Cost to Nike20.00Research and Development.25Promotion and Advertising4.00Sales, Distribution, Administration5.00Nike Profit6.25Cost to Retailer35.50Retailer Rent9.00Personnel9.50Other7.00Retailer Profit9.00Consumer Cost70.00Another company official defended living conditions and wages in the factories where Nikes were made,saying, “I don't think the girls in our factory are treated badly. The wages may be small, but it's better thanhaving no job.” The alternative, according to the official, would be “harvesting coconut meat in the tropicalSAGE© 2000 Institute for the Study of Diplomacy

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Athletic shoe, Nike Inc, The Chaser,

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