Welcome to Academics Studying , Adidas, Nike, etc. & Athletic & Campus Apparel Industry

Born on: August 25, 2000

Photo- Thai Labor Campaign

REEBOK Corporation is hiding behind its annual HUMAN RIGHTS Award Spectacle. Each year Reebok faces the challenge of making its Human Rights Award a meaningful, newsworthy spectacle.

Reebok Soccer Ball Tag

The Reebok HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD spectacle?

BACKGROUND: The Annual Human Rights Award is an annual spectacle. For 13 years it has been a huge symbolic image builder for Reebok.Be honest, its a PR tool, a way for executives to distract attention form their own corporate human rights record.  Reebok's shoes and clothing are manufactured in Indonesia, China, and elsewhere by sub-contractor companies who exploit workers into the cheapest wage conditions possible, and fight or run away whenever workers try to organize. In Reebok's sub-contract factories in Indonesia, mostly young female workers are typically paid about $ 1.50 a day. And with inflation these workers make less than they did five years ago. "The real test will be when independent unions come knocking at Reebok’s door" (MSN, May, 1999 Vol. 4 #2). 

There are two actors recruited to play in the Reebok annual Spectacle. The first are people who are doing legitimate actions to bring about more human rights for oppressed people. Most Reebok Human Rights Award winners, the actors recruited by Reebok, have refused to comment on the irony of Reebok giving a Human Rights Award, while having some of the most exploitative conditions for women workers in its global factories. Most recipients grab the $50,000 award-grant and flee the stage, hoping the reporters will not notice the irony. For the past 13 years, between four and six grasp these annual Reebok awards. Each person is a fine organizer and activist, but they are being used to promote a Human Rights image of Reebok Corporation. One woman, Dita Sari, has refused to be complicit in the Reebok annul spectacle. 

The Second type of actor recruited to star in the annual Reebok spectacle of illusion, is a long list of movie, musical, and sports celebrities.  Reebok recruits them to draw crowds, and to draw a press too eager to sell spectator-readers on the idea that Reebok has a heart for Human Rights.  It is time to deconstruct the Annual Reebok Human Rights Awards, for the Spectacle of Public Relations hype that it is. 

We start with 2002 where one of the award recipients, Dita Sari, refused to play her scripted role, and turned down her acting fee of $50,000. 


2002 13th Annual Reebok Human Rights Awards - Why is actor Robert Redford a presenter of these hypocritical Reebok Human Rights awards? Redford may be naive:

  1. Perhaps Redford does not know anything whatsoever about Reebok Corporation or the labor condidtions of its factories in Asia.
  2. Or perhaps Redford thinks that because Paul Fireman, Chairman of the Awards Committee that also includes  President Jimmy Carter, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, Peter Gabriel, Rafer Johnson, Elaine Jones, C. Joseph LaBonte, Li Lu, Josh Mailman, Angel Martinez, Michael Posner, Michael Stipe, Rose Styron --- is just a great cause. 
  3. Or perhaps Robert Redford has not read Reebok's own reports about the conditions that women face in Reebok factories worldwide
  4. Robert Redford may not know anything about Reebok factory life.
  5. For more info on Reebok - Search for Reebok In the News or Search Countries where Reebok has its factory locations

The decision I have made is not merely based on data, report, statistics or assumptions. In 1995, I was arrested and tortured by the police, after leading a strike of 5000 workers of Indoshoes Inti Industry. They demanded an increase of their wages (they were paid only US$1 for working 8 hours a day), and maternity leave as well. This company operated in West Java, and produced shoes of Reebok and Adidas. I have seen for my self how the company treat the workers, and used the police to repress the strikers.

We believe that accepting the award is not a proper or a right thing to do. This is part of the consequences of our work to help workers improve their life. We cannot tolerate the way multinational companies treat the workers of the third world countries. And we surely hope that our stand can make a contribution to help changing the labor condition in Reebok-produced companies.


2001 Reebok HR awardsApparently, they were held in the middle of the day at Northeastern University and the location was kept secret so no activists knew where it was held. 

Yet, news reports say "Gabriel and Williams were two of the four presenters of Reebok's 12th Human Rights Awards to Kodjo Djissenou from Togo, Ndungi Githuku from Kenya, and Americans William Coley and Heather Barr. Each winner received $50,000 from Canton-based Reebok. Throughout the 2 1/2-hour presentation and performance, the message was clear - the award recipients were the stars. This was cogently expressed at the end when dozens of folks - including Reebok CEO Paul Fireman, MC/chief marketing officer Angel Martinez, rapper Common, Gabriel, Williams, the 44 kids in the Renaissance Charter School of Boston, Philly's Rennie Harris Dance Group, and the Jabali Afrika band - sang Bob Marley's anthemic "Get Up Stand Up."  Interviews were conducted in a PRIVATE BALLROOM. ... During her acceptance speech, Barr said, "Some of the worst human rights violations happen right here in our backyard." Barr, who left her home at 15, said with a chuckle later, "[I] learned all my politics from Dead Kennedys" - that would be the radical San Francisco-based punk band helmed by Jello Biafra (Source: Annonymous writer for The Boston Globe - March 22, 2001, Thursday ,THIRD EDITION  - SECTION: LIVING; Pg. D4  -HEADLINE: NAMES & FACES;  GET UP, STAND UP).

The award recipients had nothing to say about the irony of Reebok giving out Human Rights Awards. (See Reebok 1999 press release). Keep in mind this is a ceremony that since 1986 has attracted thousands of spectators, and lots of media coverage. Imagine a scene, where the spectacle location can not be pre-announced, since too many activists would turn the event into a carnival of resistance, and provide the pre-selected cadre of Reebok reporters with quotes they would not want to print. 

2000 - Reebok HR awards - NO DATA AVAILABLE

Award coverage seems to have been very sparse, and details on the location and the celebrities, if any, are lacking. 

1999 - Reebok HR awards - As Yargo says, "There are many events in the womb of time." An many coincidences - 

Not much is known about the ceremony - The day before this award ceremony (March 24, 1999), Reebok added its name to the list of corporations and groups asking that Dita Sari be released from prison. She was jailed in 1996 for leading a strike of 20,000 workers. The award recipients had notthing to say about the irony of Reebok giving out Human Rights Awards. (See CEO Paul Fireman 1999 plea that Dita Sari be released from prison. Dita Sari was being recruited for the award that would turn into carnival of resistance in 2002. 

1998 - Reebok HR Awards - Actress Glenn Close presented the Reebok Human Rights Awards at Columbia University.  - Why? 

Anti-sweatshop activists scurried to find the location of the event, which was finally moved to Columbia University. No data on number of attendees. 

1997 - No Data


1996 -  Five individuals are honored by Reebok for their battles against poor labor practices, government oppression, and police brutality 


1996 is the year when media and activists began to challenge Reebok -Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights group, charges that the Reebok awards are a "public relations hoax," because the company makes shoes in China and Indonesia where labor organizing is illegal. (Source: The Christian Science Monitor  December 11, 1996, Wednesday  SECTION: FEATURES; Pg. 12  - HEADLINE: Faces Behind the Fight for Human Rights BYLINE: David Holmstrom). 

1995 - Reebok HR Awards - 

Arn Chorn  received a Reebok Human Rights Award for his work. 

So did twelve-year-old Iqbal Masih of Pakistan was such a hit when he visited Boston last year to receive a human rights award from Reebok that Brandeis University offered him a full scholarship whenever he was ready. Iqbal's picture appeared in newspapers and on television when Reebok honored him with its Youth in Action Award for his advocacy of Pakistani children held in bondage. Iqbal Masih, who was given the Reebok Human Rights Award in December, was the president of the children's wing of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan. Police said an employee of a local landlord shot and killed Iqbal in his hometown of Muridke, near Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, while the boy was on his way home Sunday (Source: Los Angeles Times   View Related Topics April 19, 1995, Wednesday, Home Edition SECTION: Part A; Page 6; Foreign Desk  HEADLINE: LABOR ACTIVIST, 12, KILLED IN PAKISTAN  BYLINE: By Reuters).  

1994 - Reebok HR Awards - with with appearances by Peter Gabriel, and actress and wife of Sting, Trudie Styler (gave keynote), as well as Olympic decathlete Rafer Johnson - Why?

1993 - Reebok HR Awards presented CEO Billionaire TED TURNER, Peter Gariel, and Siourney Weaver.  Turner, is founder of the Cable News Network, delivered the keynote address at Reebok International Ltd.'s presentation of its annual human rights awards. WHY?  The Stoughton-based Reebok company last year sold $ 3 billion worth of athletic shoes and other apparel, and condecended to donate $ 25,000 to each recipient's organization. Winners were chosen by a 12-member board of advisers which included former president Jimmy Carter. 

Winners include: the Rev. Carl Washington, who mediated a truce between rival gangs in South Central, Los Angeles; Marie-France Botte, of Belgium, who works to halt the sale of Asian children into prostitution; Sia Kashinawa, a defender of the Brazilian rain forest's indigenous people; and Hisham Mubarak, who documents human-rights violations in Egypt. 

Held at The Hynes Auditorium, the ceremony will also include performances by several musicians, including Peter Gabriel and appearances by celebrities including actress Sigourney Weaver (Source: Globe Newspaper Company  The Boston Globe  View Related Topics  December 8, 1993, Wednesday, City Edition SECTION: ECONOMY; Pg. 56  HEADLINE: 4 human rights advocates to be given Reebok awards; 

1992 - Reebok HR Awards - Peter Gabriel and Joan Baez. Former hostage Terry Anderson gave the keynote address - WHY? - Peter Gabriel, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Yo-Yo Ma, Joan Baez, Cybill Shepherd and others helped draw a capacity crowd to the fifth annual Reebok Human Rights Awards at the Hines Convention Center on Dec. 9. Recipients received $ 25,000 to give to a human rights organization, must be under age 30 and cannot advocate violence. The awardees are: 

The ceremony in Boston drew more than 3,000 people, including celebrities Peter Gabriel and Joan Baez. Former hostage Terry Anderson gave the keynote address (Source: 1992 Christian Science Monitor  December 10, 1992, Thursday  SECTION: THE U.S.; Pg. 2  HEADLINE: Four Human Rights Activists Are Honored - BYLINE: Elizabeth Levitan Spaid; Billboard  December 19, 1992 - SECTION: ARTISTS & MUSIC; Pg. 12  HEADLINE: Stars Help Cheer Rights Honorees BYLINE: BY GREG REIBMAN). 


1991 - Reebok HR Awards in Boston with Jimmy Carter and host of star celebs -  The 1991 Reebok Human Rights Awards, held at the Boston Park Plaza Castle, drew media attention and buses of school kids because of the presence of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Ruben Blades, Lou Reed, James Taylor, KRS-One, Sinbad, Johnny Clegg, Jackson Browne, Lou Diamond Phillips, and others. On Tuesday (Dec 10, 1991), Mr. Carter spoke at the Reebok Human Rights Award ceremony in Boston, which, he said, honors "young heroes, less than 30 years old, for their work in exposing human rights violations and endangering their freedom or their lives"  (Source: Bodean, Nadine, The New York Times  View Related Topics  December 7, 1991, Saturday, Late Edition - Final  SECTION: Section 1; Page 24; Column 1). "Carter, a member of the awards' advisory board, was introduced by Paul Fireman, chairman and chief executive officer of Stoughton-based Reebok International Ltd., as 'the president who will be remembered for human rights'" 

Reebok's human-rights activities represent a commitment in excess of $ 2 million a year, Fireman reported. 

1990 - Reebok HR Awards - Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Johnny Clegg, Joan Baez, and Carly Simon were among the participants here last month at an emotional, star-studded ceremony honoring human-rights activists from around the world. 

1989 -Reebok HR Awards in Boston Dec. 5, British rock artist Sting presented - WHY?  Sting presented the second annual Reebok Human Rights Awards to activists who struggled to raise awareness of human rights.(Source: 989 Gannett Company Inc.  USA TODAY  November 28, 1989, Tuesday, FINAL EDITION  SECTION: LIFE; Pg. 2D). 

1988 - First year of Reebok HR Awards - Since 1988 Reebok, one of the world's leading exploiters of human rights has presented the Human Rights award to honor of Human Rights activists aged 30 years of age or younger for their efforts to improve human rights at great personal risk to their body and against formidable odds in oppressive situations. LaDuke is the director of the White Earth Recovery Project and won the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1988.


Why Do people accept a REEBOK HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD? Why do Celebrities Hand them out?

When a transnational global corporation continues to violate its own corporate codes of conduct, then it is legitimate to ask why would any one working for Human Rights accept an award from the Reebok Corporation. 

  1. Report on Dongguan Elegant Top Shoes Co., Ltd. China (2000) details alleged, continued violations of Reebok's  Code of conduct. These include discrimination, wage, overtime, benefit and safety practices which violate Chinese law and are contrary to Reebok's code. 
  2. Report on Gang Tai Shoes, a Hong Kong (2001) subcontractor to Kong Tai Shoes Mfg. Co., Ltd. of Taiwan who operates the factory in China and subs to Reebok has alleged repeated code of conduct violations.
  3. Monitors sent be Reebok to write reports that audit compliance to Reebok's Code of Conduct are actualized in ways that deny workers their voice, and cover up cancer causing toxic conditions such as use of Tolulene:

In sum, Why would any self-respecting Human Rights worker accept a Human Rights Award from a company that blatantly ignores the human rights of its subcontract employees?   The question demands an answer, and this is why the annual Reebok Award ceremony is kept secret, clandestine, and only the public relations photographers are invited to the ceremony. 


Why does Reebok have a Human Rights Award?

If the ceremony is a sham, then why stage it? 

According to Reebok officials: "As concern for human rights issues grows among consumers, particularly younger consumers, we believe our leadership and reputation will translate into greater preference for our brands and products," Reebok said at that time" (4, 5).

It was established in 1988 and 57 young people from 28 countries have been honored by Reebok for their significant contributions to Human Rights. Is this Human  Rights Hypocrisy since Reebok does not honor the Human Rights struggles of its 75,000 workers?   Does Reebok trample its own Worker  Rights while promoting a corporate PR image with its Human Rights Award?  What is the historical record of Reebok and Human Rights?

Paul Fireman, Chairman of Reebok International, Ltd. of Canton, Massachusetts, said, "The vanguard of the human rights movement today is in the hundreds of activist grass roots organizations and thousands of people who face abuses and refuse to accept them. Every year the recipients of the Reebok Human Rights Award come forward to tell their stories to the world – and each year we are struck by the spirit, determination, and fortitude of these young heroines and heroes. They tell stories of horror and despair countered by an undaunted affirmation of humanity and a bold pursuit of positive change, often in the face of ultimate consequences. It is a great honor for Reebok to support these inspiring young human rights advocates" (February, 2001).



In 1998 Actress Glenn Close presents the Reebok Human Rights Award?  WHY? Does she know anything about Reebok factories? About workers' rights? About human rights?  Or is this star power in the service of the spectacle of corporate power, a clever PR show to dupe the fans?

In October 9, 2001, Reebok launched its most aggressive women's campaign by tying celebrity stars to its sponsorship of the Survivor series. Star power includes Unites Grammy Nominee Missy Elliott, Tennis Champion Venus Williams, WNBA Professional Basketball Star Jennifer Azzi, Survivor II Castaways and Reebok Master Trainers In New TV Campaign Celebrating Women Who Defy Convention. The theme is Defy Convention, "It’s A Woman’s World."

Yet, one can not help but ask, what kind of 'women's world" is it for hundreds of thousands of women in Indonesia, China, Mexico and elsewhere making Reebok while sports and movie celebrities re-focus consumer attention on the Survivor series?


WHAT ARE THE FACTS? One has to think that celebrities with star power would cease to provide Reebok with its cover story of "Its' A Woman's World" if they knew the working conditions of women working for Reebok.  While each of the Human Rights Awards recipients has a courageous story to tell about their work on behalf of others, it is a fact that Reebok has the weakest Code of Conduct in its industry and continues to have Human Rights problems in its factories. The minimum age for child labor is 14 years old; There is a February, 2001 report of child labor in their Mexico factory; The work week in the Reebok Code is 60 hours, and the fair wage is not a living wage. Current examples of Reebok violating its own Code of Conduct and Human Rights statements:

Reebok in Indonesia and Human Rights - February, 2001, the U.S. State Department's report to Congress on Human Rights  around the world explained the struggle by Indonesian workers to win an equitable severance settlement with the  Reebok contractor, Kong Tai International (KTI).  The lawyer for KTI promised "a fight  to the death" over the issue (the same law firm represents the GOLKAR party  of the disgraced Gen'l Suharto). "Reebok in 1999 published a report that was highly critical of conditions of some 10,000 workers at its five plants in Indonesia. In the report, an independent Indonesian research firm said it found evidence of health and safety abuses, sexual discrimination and communication problems in the factories. Reebok immediately said it was spending more than $500,000 to improve conditions at the factories" (4).

Reebok in Mexico and Human Rights - January and February, 2001 - Workers have documented child labor at the plant...(See Reebok Code of Conduct - Child Labor) - When workers stood up for their rights, police and thugs attacked them, sending over 15 workers to the hospital... (See Reebok Code of Conduct - Freedom of Association). Workers at the Kuk Dong factory in Peubla Mexico, a Korean-managed Reebok subcontractor, walked out to protest the firing of five workers for protesting rotten food in the cafeteria, low wages (75 cents an hour), and the failure of the company to pay the Christmas bonus in accordance with Mexican labor law (See Reebok Code of Conduct).  Workers also report physical and verbal abuse, the unwillingness of the company to pay maternity benefits, failure by the company to pay extra wages for overtime hours, attempts by the company to impose forced overtime, and serious safety and health violations (See Reebok Code of Conduct). On January 25th, 2001 two independent monitoring agencies - the Worker Rights Consortium, a body involving 67 U.S. universities, and the International Labor Rights Fund, a non-profit affiliated to the Fair Labor Association which also has university affiliates - released reports submitted by their monitoring teams confirming that Kuk Dong has (at least) violated the right to freedom of association as granted by Mexican labor law, the International Labor Organization, University and Reebok Code of Conduct, and the first legally binding agreement signed in mid-January.

March 2001 - This year, the 12th Annual Reebok Human Rights Award Program has honored Will Coley, Project Director  of  the  Jesuit Refugee Service Detainee and Asylum Assistance Project for his work in providing services to political asylum seekers in detention and bringing  attention  to  this  issue.   The  Reebok  Human  Rights  Program will highlight the issue of detention of political asylum seekers through a number of events March 19th-23rd, 2001.  Besides Will Coley, there are 3 other recipients: Heather Barr, 29, a lawyer with the Urban Justice Center in New York City; Kodjo Djissenou, 24, of Togo, a journalist who has campaigned against sexual harassment and trafficking of children; and Ndungi Githuku, 27, of Kenya, an artist who uses plays and poetry to campaign for human rights. Each winner is gracious: "I wouldn't want to focus it on myself as it is an award for all of us who are in the struggle, for all of us who are oppressed," Githuku said" (6, 7). Reebok press release celebrate not only the recipients but Reebok's great works in Human Rights (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 , 8): "Reebok, a Canton, Mass.-based athletic shoe and apparel company, each year gives the Human Rights Award to four individuals whose human rights work "has brought hope, inspiration and strength to the lives of others" (4). Each will be given a $50,000 grant.  Will this award ceremony pay tribute to the Reebok factory workers, mostly women, in Indonesia and Mexico who struggle bravely and courageously to establish their own human rights according to Reebok's Code of Conduct? Write to Will Coley, and ask him how his acceptance of such an award from Reebok undercuts the struggle of mostly young female workers to secure their Human Rights.

Jesuit Refugee Service is an international humanitarian non-governmental organization formed under the auspices of the Catholic religious order, the Society of Jesus. See JRS alert on Indonesia (West Timor alert 2-03-2001). QUESTION: Do these same people work for Reebok factories in Indonesia? Please email info@jesref.org to protest the Reebok Human Rights Award.

Reebok, the Canton, Mass.-based athletic shoe and apparel company, will present the awards March 21 in Boston.


Who is the CEO of REEBOK?

Reebok CEO, Paul Fireman; CEO Paul Fireman and his wife own 18% of the company.

Reebok Chief Financial Officer Ken Watchmaker

100 Technology Center Drive
Stoughton, MA. 02072

1895 J. W. Foster Blvd.
Canton, MA 02021
Telephone: 617-341-5000
Web Site: www.reebok.com

Reebok International Ltd. (RBK)

Reebok CEO, Paul Fireman is one of the highest paid CEOs in the world. "The way we treat our fellow human beings is the ultimate measure of our own humanity," said Paul Fireman, chairman and CEO of Reebok International Ltd." ( 8).


Reebok employs 75,000 workers worldwide.

Reebok has a Code of Conduct.

Every factory producing Reebok products will publicize and enforce a non-retaliation policy
that permits factory workers to speak with Reebok staff without fear of retaliation by factory

Reebok will seek business partners who do not discriminate in hiring and employment
practices, and who make decisions about hiring, salary, benefits, advancement, discipline,
termination and retirement solely on the basis of a person's ability to do the job.

Workers shall not work more than 60 hours per week, including overtime, except in extraordinary business circumstances. In countries where the maximum work week is less, that standard shall apply. Workers shall be entitled to at least one day off in every seven day period.

Reebok will not work with business partners that use forced or other compulsory labor,
including labor that is required as a means of political coercion or as punishment for holding
or for peacefully expressing political views, in the manufacture of its products. Reebok will
not purchase materials that were produced by forced prison or other compulsory labor and
will terminate business relationships with any sources found to utilize such labor.

Reebok will seek business partners who share our commitment to the betterment of wage and benefit levels that address the basic needs of workers and their families so far as possible and appropriate in the light of national practices and conditions. Reebok will not select business partners that pay less than the minimum wage required by local law or that pay less than prevailing local industry practices (whichever is higher).

Reebok will not work with business partners that use child labor. The term "child" generally refers to a person who is younger than 15 (or 14 where the law of the country of manufacture
allows) or younger than the age for completing compulsory education in the country of
manufacture where such age is higher than 15.

Reebok will seek business partners that share its commitment to the right of employees to establish and join organizations of their own choosing. Reebok recognizes and respects the right of all employees to organize and bargain collectively.

Reebok will seek business partners that strive to assure employees a safe and healthy workplace and that do not expose workers to hazardous conditions.

WHAT is Reebok's Strategy?

Reebok's corporate strategy is to present itself as a Human Rights Advocate giving out Human Rights Awards  (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 , 8). This is a corporate image known as "sweatwash," the effort to craft a corporate image of Human Rights Advocacy while employing women in China in oppressive work conditions. Reebok competes with Nike by presenting itself as more worker-friendly than Nike.    Nike and Reebok have been in a PR war this past decade to prove they are more worker-right friendly than the other (CLR).

REEBOK 1999 - March 24 -  Reebok Calls on Indonesia to Release Labor Rights Activist - Reebok Leads Wage Increases among Manufacturers in Indonesia. STOUGHTON, Mass. -- On the day before the presentation of the 1999 Reebok Human Rights Awards, the U.S.-based athletic footwear and apparel leader Reebok International Ltd. made public today a letter from Reebok CEO Paul Fireman to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie urging the release of imprisoned Indonesian labor rights activist, Dita Sari. (Read more about Dita Sari - It was not Reebok press release that released her).

Nike, Reebok compete to set labor rights pace (Trim Bissell, Campaign for Labor Rights, 25 Mar. 1999)

REEBOK - February 27, 2001 - Boston Globe Celebs back human rights Art-rocker Peter Gabriel and tennis ace Venus Williams will host the annual Reebok Human Rights Awards ceremony March 21 at Northeastern's Blackman Auditorium. They will salute Heather Barr, a New York lawyer and advocate for the mentally ill; William Coley, an  advocate for refugees seeking political asylum in the United States; Kodjo Djissenou, a youth organizer campaigning for democracy in Togo; and  Endungi Githuku, an artist using his plays and poetry to teach Kenyans about human rights. Reebok, based in Canton, will give $50,000 to each winner for donation to the organization of his or her choice. More human  rights-loving celebs to be announced.


Doug Cahn, director of Reebok's Human Rights Program, acknowledges  that Reebok's code is in part a response to consumer demand for Reebok to be accountable for human rights in its production processes: "Paying money up front (for monitoring) helps protect against criticisms of your
brand image... because the brand  image stands for something that can't be (allowed to) erode." For Reebok, monitoring costs become part of marketing costs because the firm believes issue-based brand image can sustain profits. Reebok's pursuit of a socially responsible image is evaluated in Andrea Mackiewicz, The Economist Intelligence Unit Guide to Building a Global Image   (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993).


Reebok has its Code of Conduct.



1885 - "Joseph William Foster, the star of an English running club, wanted a pair of spiked running shoes. He could not
find any sort of shoe, so he decided to make his own by hammering nails through the soles of his shoes" (1, 2).

1890's - Joseph Foster founded a company called “J.W. Foster & Sons, Inc” to enhance performance in long-distance track events by improving equipment.

1933 - Joseph Foster died and the company was renamed “The Olympic Works”

1950s - two of Foster’s grandsons began another footwear company called “Reebok Sports Limited”, named after an African gazelle known for its tremendous speed (1, 2).

1958 Joseph’s grandsons founded a new footwear company called “Mercury”; in Drury, England

1970’s - changed name to “Reebok International Limited” based in Canton, Massachusetts.

1979 - Reebok USA started by Paul Fireman.

1982 - Paul Fireman, an American outdoor equipment marketer, persuaded Reebok to grant him distributorship of Reebok products in North America; sales of $3.5m.

1984 - Reebok was purchased by Fireman

1985 $307m in sales.

1988 - Reebok  helped sponsor the “Human Rights Now!” International Concert Tour  featuring Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and Peter Gabriel (40th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights)

1992- Human Rights Production Standards begin - The standards cover non-discrimination, working hours/overtime, forced or compulsory labor, wages, child labor, freedom of association, and workplace safety/health; it includes on-site inspection of production facilities, to implement and monitor those standards (Reebok).

The Reebok Foundation then gives $25,000 to a Human Rights organization of the recipient’s choice (1). And Reebok underwrote the Amnesty International World Tour for $10 million.

1996 - Press for Change protests at Reebok Human Rights Award ceremony in New York

1999- (October 18) On Reebok made public a detailed report by an independent Indonesian research firm which criticized working conditions at two Indonesian factories employing 10,000 workers producing Reebok footwear. The report, entitled Peduli Hak, is available on Reebok's website.



For More In The News for Reebok, below are just a few items:

1991 -If Reebok doubled the wages of its workers in Indonesia, what effect would that have on its overall costs and
profits? Interview with Pharis Harvey:

Harvey: Well, if Reebok doubled their wages, it could raise the cost of a shoe from $79 to $80 and nobody would ever notice it. There is now about $1 worth of labor that goes into a shoe.  In 1991, Paul Fireman, the CEO of Reebok, was paid at least two times as much as the entire workforce of the Indonesian shoe industry. Reebok has 25,000 workers in Indonesia. If you allow $1.50 a day, for 300 days a year, youÆve got an annual wage of $500 a person. Add in a few benefits and bring it up to $600 maybe. 25,000 times $600 is $15 million, and that's at the most generous counting. Fireman made $31,000,000 in 1991 (interview).


February 27, 2001 - (U.S. State Department) - Mentioning a Reebok subcontract dispute with workers - "Representatives of 4,700 footwear workers, who did not receive severance pay when their factory closed, staged a sit-in for several weeks in the national Parliament until the company paid the severances... In addition to normal work stoppages, workers occasionally used unorthodox tactics, such as blocking Jakarta's airport toll road.  Representatives of 4,700 footwear workers, who did not receive severance pay when their factory closed, staged a sit-in for several weeks in the national Parliament until the company paid the severances.

February 27, 2001 - Boston Globe Celebs back human rights Art-rocker Peter Gabriel and tennis ace Venus Williams will host the annual Reebok Human Rights Awards ceremony March 21 at Northeastern's Blackman Auditorium. They will salute Heather Barr, a New York lawyer and advocate for the mentally ill; William Coley, an  advocate for refugees seeking political asylum in the United States; Kodjo Djissenou, a youth organizer campaigning for democracy in Togo; and  Endungi Githuku, an artist using his plays and poetry to teach Kenyans about human rights. Reebok, based in Canton, will give $50,000 to each winner for donation to the organization of his or her choice. More human  rights-loving celebs to be announced.

Reebok's Time Line

1992 Reebok issued its REEBOK has its CODE OF CONDUCT - known as the Reebok Human Rights Production Standards. It prohibits the use of Child Labor and workers should have the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining (1).  This was in response to protests in Indonesia (2). "Reebok responded by adopting the first code of conduct to contain language protecting the rights to associate freely and bargain collectively" (2).

1995 Study of Reebok Factory in China found numerous human rights violations and contrary practices to Reebok's Code of Conduct (source). 

Why? - The Real Issue is How Contracts get mad "My son and I interviewed a manager from a Reebok factory who
was more candid than the Nike managers, simply because Reebok is not yet receiving such intense international criticism. He pointed out that contractors must agree to a certain percentage -- 12% -- as being the labor costs involved in making shoes. If labor costs exceed that, the contractor has to absorb those costs or has to force the workers to meet higher quotas" (Source).

1996 Life Magazine article carries photos of children making Nike and Adidas Soccer balls. These same factories make balls for Reebok See Pakistan.  Reebok is credited for taking the need to reform seriously (source). See Foul BALL, Miriam Wasserman's  (2000) article gives lots of facts and figures)

1996 Reebok centralized all its soccer ball production in a new factory. 4 See Soccer Ball Study. Reebok contracts for its soccer ball production with Moltex (Since March 1997 5, 6).

1996 Sialkot agreement - The agreement follows an initiative to remove children from soccer ball production in Pakistan launched by
the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry and the Soccer Industry Council of America. These
groups together represent more than 50 sporting goods brands, including U.S. manufacturers Reebok and Nike, who were involved in discussions on the Sialkot agreement.

1997 - MAJOR REPORTS RELEASED -  "Working Conditions in Sports Shoe Factories in China Making Shoes for Nike and Reebok" a report by the Asia Monitor Resource Centre and the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee Hong Kong, September 1997 (source 1,).

1997 VIETNAM LABOR REPORT - During his stay in Vietnam, Nguyen interviewed 35 Nike workers and 25 Reebok workers with the help of Vietnamese officials.

1997 REPORT FROM CHINA - Sunday, September 21, 1997 Study: Chinese workers abused making Nikes, Reeboks  Last modified at 11:07 p.m. on Saturday, September 20, 1997 NEW YORK (AP) -- Subcontractors making shoes in China for
Nike and Reebok use workers as young as 13 who earn as little as 10 cents an hour toiling up to 17 hours daily in enforced silence, independent observers charge (source).

1998 After the Child Labor Scandal In Pakistan Reebok began to label its Soccer Balls "No Child Labor"

1998 - Reebok and Soccer Balls - School project on child labor begins (REEBOK) boycott  Sunday, July 5, 1998 BY DANA DiFILIPPO  The Cincinnati Enquirer

1998 and 1999, brown shoe phenomenon hurt Reebok sales

1999 (May 28) - MATTEL, LEVI STRAUSS, REEBOK ENDORSE NEW CODE On May 28, three companies highly invested in China - Mattel, Levi Strauss and Reebok - announced that they had joined with 21 human rights, fair trade and socially responsible investment groups in endorsing a set of principles for corporations doing business in China (source).

October 19, 1999- A report on two Indonesian factories hired by sneaker maker Reebok International Ltd., though welcome, fell far short, critics said yesterday, noting the study examined only two of hundreds of shops Reebok hires (CCC).

September 9, 1999 - Reebok cuts 120 Massachusetts
jobs  - Associated Press STOUGHTON, Mass. (AP) PORTSMOUTH HERALD - Reebok International Ltd. laid off 120 employees in Massachusetts in an attempt to cut costs and restructure its business; 10% of 1200 HQ employees and will cut 10% of its worldwide 6,000 employees.

February 1, 2001- Reebok Shares Hit Year High on Outlook By Tim McLaughlin BOSTON (Reuters) - Reebok International Ltd. (RBK), the world's No. 2 shoe maker, on Thursday said its profits this year could surge 25 percent after swiping rivals' market share last year with trendy brands.

October 20, 2001 - Reebok, once again accused of human rights violations (child labor, sexual harassment, toxic conditions) in its China factories. Saturday October 20, 2:40 PM APEC should put priority on improving workers' rights in China: labor group SHANGHAI, Oct 20 (AFP) - China is ignoring labor violations by foreign-invested companies, and business leaders at the current Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum should put workers' rights high on the agenda, a rights group said Saturday.... The factory, Dongguan Elegant Top Co. Ltd., located in Dongguan city in Guangdong province, makes shoes for major multinationals including Reebok, Clarks and Fila, CLW said. It uses child labor and has subjected workers to using dangerous chemicals, such as methybenzene, without protection, according to CLW. Female workers at the factory, who make up the majority of its 6,000 employees, have been subjected to sexual harassment, while the company imposes hefty fines for even minor
mistakes, CLW said.



WHAT CAN WE DO? Copy the following letter, and email of fax to CEO Firestone and his associates (Source www.chinalaborwatch.org).

Dear Reebok Customers,

Chinese workers need your help! We hope you will join our writing campaign to Reebok to urge them to improve the working and living condition of their workers in factories in China.

Reebok is a giant international company. Many products of the company are manufactured in the factories of Chinese contractors. The labor situations in these factories is as follows:

· Workers are forced to work overtime up to 13 hour a day;
· Workers hourly pay is as low as 24 cents US;
· Female workers are sexually harassed;
· Workers are fined as punishment;
· Workers are overly burdened under regulations laid out in a 49 page manual (link to regulations);
· No pension plan, no employment insurance, no medical insurance, and a worker will loose everything once his/her job is lost.


Today, China Labor Watch has released another report on the labor conditions of a Reebok contractor ( www.chinalaborwatch.org  ). We are now focusing our demands on several points the workers believe Reebok contractors should fulfill.  We hope you will take the time to write to Reebok to support these Chinese workers. The email address of Reebok’s Human Rights Office is humanrights@reebok.com. The demands we have put forward are listed as follows.

1. Regarding: No discrimination against male workers. Because of the discriminations against male workers, there are currently eight female workers to every male worker. We demand this rate to improve to four female workers to each male worker.

2. Regarding the education of labor laws and union laws as well as the establishment of trade unions.  Although election of union leaders were conducted under the direction of Reebok, most workers just regard the union as a program during New Year celebrations. They do not understand the function of the union.
We demand that the posters of Labor Law and Union Law be displayed on the bulletin boards in these factories

3. The factory administration does not establish pension plans, employment insurance, and medical insurance for the workers. This is in violation of current Chinese Labor Law. The workers will lose everything when they get laid off or leave the factory. We demand that the workers’ wage level meet or exceed the minimum wage level set by the government.  The factory administration should establish pension plans, employment insurance, and medical insurance for the workers according to the Chinese Law.  The total expense of such compensation is only 8 US dollars per month.

4. Regarding work hours.  We demand that normal work hours not exceed 40 hours per week according to China’s labor law, and overtime work hours not exceed 36 hours per month.

Friends, Chinese workers need your help. Take action now!  We sincerely appreciate you help.


Li Qiang

Executive Director
China Labor Watch
For further information: wwwchinalaborwatch.org

Please direct your appeal to the individuals below:

CEO Paul Firestone
Reebok International Ltd.
1895 J. W. Foster Blvd., Canton, MA 02021 U.S.A.
781-401-4806 (fax)
(E-mail); humanrights@reebok.com

You may also write to the following organizations to further assist this cause:

The Office of the High Commissioner  for Human Rights Geneva, Switzerland
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone Number (41-22) 917-9000
e-mail: webadmin.hchr@unog.ch

ILO Regional Office for Asia & the Pacific in Bangkok (ASIE)
TELEPHONE :+ Director
e-mail: bangkok@ilo.org

Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and
Labor, US Department of State; Fax: 202-647-5283

Jorge Perez Lopez , Acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Labor Affairs; US Department of Labor; Fax: 202-693-4780

Elegant Top Shoes Co., Ltd.
Da Tang Dou, Ju Shan Village
Fu Cheng District
Dongguan City, Guandong Province
Phone: 0769-2204901,





Webmaster --- David M. Boje  dboje@nmsu.edu

Main web site for info on Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and New Balance factories and alleged exploitation