The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

Nike Striving to Better Kukdong Conditions

Nike Striving to Better Kukdong Conditions

But according to an e-mail sent Monday to at least one member of Students for Economic Justice, the CROC union -- a Mexican labor union that currently represents Kukdong factory workers -- has been working to counter Nike's most recent negotiations with factory management.

Details of the recent negotiations include provisions for all reinstated employees to earn the same wages they received before the strike, as well as the reinstatement of the same position and vacation time to which they were previously entitled. Added wage increases also were negotiated as part of the factory's annual collective bargaining agreement.

The e-mail, which included a report from United Students Against Sweatshops, a group that works closely with SEJ, stated that the union filed 21 counts of labor grievances at the Kukdong factory Feb. 13.

But labor advocates fear that the union will force workers to strike in support of their complaints as early as this week, keeping them out of jobs they haven't held for a month. SEJ member Courtney Sproule said the workers shouldn't have to strike. "The demands and accusations that are being made by the union are ludicrous," she said. "It just seems absurd."

Rut Tufts, co-chairman of UNC's Labor Licensing Code Advisory Committee, said he had not received notice of the CROC union's grievances, but that the union has a right to file these complaints. "It's my understanding that there is a legitimate contract between the CROC and Kukdong," Tufts said. "It is reasonable for the CROC to take some more proactive stance for what they are defending."

Tufts said that although it is still too early to determine the final outcome of the situation, Nike might be closer to reaching a solution. "Nike is right where they said they would be," Tufts said. "They are taking the necessary steps towards a resolution."

Another development stressed in Nike's update included the indefinite extension of factory management's initial Feb. 2 deadline for workers to reclaim their jobs. Tufts said the negotiations were conducted in private and made public last Friday.

"It would look foolish to have said in the middle of last week that Nike is not doing anything, when it comes to light that they are making a strong effort to do what they said they would do," he said. "Some things can be conducted in the public arena, others have to be done behind the scenes, and this (deadline extension) is a prime example."

Workshops to educate workers about their freedom of association rights will be conducted by the union and Mexican government. Workers also will be able to hold free elections to create a new union.

According to Nike's update, a new report on the conditions of the Kukdong factory conducted by the Fair Labor Association, a third-party monitoring group of which UNC is a member, and Verite, an independent monitoring organization, will be released next week.

Todd Pugatch, a student member of the labor committee, said that despite negotiations, it is hard for him to believe anything Nike says until he sees concrete results. "Nike seems to have adhered to the right principles, but at this time we haven't seen them bear fruit, and until they do, we will be distrustful of them."

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