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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Students Should Know Nike Has Strict Labor Standards

The recent editorial, "Making Deals," by The Daily Tar Heel, (Oct. 24) challenged Nike to live up to the labor practice standards agreed to in our eight-year contract extension with the UNC. Let me provide clarity for your readers about Nike's contract factories and manufacturing standards.

First and foremost, UNC students, faculty and staff should feel confident knowing that products with the Tar Heel logo -- whether made in the United States or abroad -- were made under well-established standards and regularly monitored working conditions. In addition to external independent monitoring, Nike currently has more than 30 employees dedicated to ensuring that the workers at nearly 750 contract factory sites throughout the world have good wages and a safe, fair and healthy work environment.

Nike, arguably more than any other company in our industry, has openly stated the challenges we face and what we are doing to meet them and improve our business practices. Further, no other company in our industry has been held up to more public scrutiny. Nike has nothing to hide, and that is why we developed an initiative called Transparency 101.

As part of that initiative, we have hosted hundreds of NGOs, students, elected officials, reporters and others to tour manufacturing sites; broadcast an on-line virtual factory tour on to give the public a look into Nike's contract factories; engaged in such public monitoring efforts such as the Global Alliance; and opened our partner factories to independent certified monitors and a group of college students that participated in monitoring efforts. In addition, Nike was the first company to disclose the names and addresses of factories producing collegiate licensed apparel, including product for UNC, before it was mandated by any university and became a prerequisite for companies that wish to produce collegiate products.

We take comfort in knowing that the perspective of our critics is inconsistent with what the 550,000 workers who make Nike products tell us that they need and appreciate the employment opportunities Nike provides in their developing global communities. We suspect that is why Vo Tien Sy, a worker at Dona Victor (a Nike subcontractor footwear factory) told the Los Angeles Times during a factory tour, "It's a good job, better than what most of my friends have." More and more academics and human rights activists are recognizing that Nike has taken labor practice issues seriously.

Nike's age standards are among the highest in the industry at 18 for footwear workers; the wages are often competitive with or exceed that of some professionals (e.g. teachers and police officers) in the countries where we produce; and, environmentally, we led the athletic goods industry into adopting water-based footwear glues to protect workers. In the case of the changeover to water-based solvents, we even held a forum in Asia, attended by our competitors, to share what we had learned, so that all footwear factory workers might benefit. Even in apparel production, we are minimizing our impact upon the environment by becoming the leading purchaser of the limited amounts of organic cotton in North America.

Nike's partnership with UNC represents the best kind of university partnership we have -- one where we share the highest values and expectations for athletics, academics, licensing and manufacturing. We can learn from each other. Your questions and scrutiny of our business practices and partnership with the university are welcomed. In this vein, we encourage your readers to visit our Web site at for the most current information on our corporate responsibility programs.

However, the road to improving labor practices is not a one-way street. We also want to commend UNC for being one of the first universities in the country to enforce labor practice standards on all products with the UNC logo, not just athletic uniforms and apparel. These will be governed under protocols of the Fair Labor Association. Any products that display the UNC logo from lab coats to maintenance uniforms must now be manufactured in accordance with the same high standards as those adhered to by Nike. This agreement ultimately benefits not only those who wear the UNC logo, but all who value the university as a beacon for justice. We encourage other manufacturers that produce uniforms for UNC to follow this lead and detail their efforts on behalf of workers who produce their products. I want to reiterate in closing, how proud Nike is of our association with UNC. We realize that while our partnership calls on Nike to outfit student athletes, teams and programs, our responsibility extends to the larger UNC community. We will keep faith with this trust.

Vada O. Manager
Director of Global Issues Management for Nike

The length rule was waived.

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