Boje's List of Ten Nike Solutions (See Academics Studying Nike Web Site -- July 24, 2000

I am often asked (never by Nike) to make recommendations to resolve the Nike problems. 

1. De-charter Nike.  If Nike faced local de-chartering campaigns to its corporate charted then it would clean up its act.  The corporate charter movement argues that when there is repeated and demonstrated forced overtime, sub-minimum wages, violations of health and safety as well as ecology standards each local community can de-charter a corporation. A community can just say no to the sale of any Nike products in its region. If enough communities protest, then the State of Oregon can be asked to revoke Nike's corporate charter.  

2. False Advertising Class Action Suits. There has already been one class action suit 9in California, now dismissed) about Nike ads portraying its human rights and empowerment initiatives while half a million Nike workers suffer inadequate wages, corporal punishment, force overtime, unsafe work conditions, and are refused the right to organize. A coalition of women's groups (including NOW and Representatives Maxine Waters and Alice Walker) pointed out the hypocritical ads about empowering women in U.S. while disempowering women in Asian factories. Nike claims that it is now living up to its code of conduct and is rapidly implementing OSHA health and Safety as well as ISO14000 environmental standards.  

3. Protest Sole source contracts with Universities. Last I heard this is a monopolistic practice as well as one that erects contracts that violate Free Speech rights guaranteed by the founding fathers.  Can a professor, student, athlete or coach at a Nike endorsed university question Nike practices? We know that one assistant coach was fired for refusing to wear Nike apparel. Adopt the Duke University contract as a template for reducing sweatshop abuses.  Duike's contract policy does not limit free speech and the products manufactured fro sale on campus must be answerable to university standards.  This includes giving the university the right to inspect working conditions and labor practices at least once a year with a report going to a committee of students, faculty and administration.  If violations are not corrected, then Duke can terminate the entire contract. Not only university, but city governments are refusing contracts with Nikes.  Struggling school districts in the City of Portland turned down a Nike contract because sweatshops production. The City of Ottawa also rejected a Nike $50,000 rubberized gym floor because Nike's treatment of 3rd world workers was a breech of  the city's human rights policy.  

4. Cartoons - Garry Trudeau's "Doonsebury" comic strip (0n and off between May and October, 1997) ran a number of strips questioning Nike's endorsement-studies of its labor practices by former Ambassador Andrew Young as well as the relationship between high-paid celebrity endorsement contracts and sweatshops in Asia. 

5. Détournement - Guy Debord and the Situationist movement used art in avant-garde ways to point ironies and tragedies in modernity. Pop artists are modifying Nike images and slogans a former of postmodern critique. The Swoosh is drawn upside down to become the frown of labor, or with a drop of blood beneath recalling Karl Marx's chapter 10 of Das Kapital, where he used the vampire image of capitalism, sucking the last drop from the worker's body.  Other pop art changes the Swoosh to a Swooshtika to re-present Nike for supposed labor camp conditions.  :Just Do It" has been transformed into "Justice Do it" and "Just Don't Do It" campaigns of resistance (the former for labor rights and the later to resist Nike's contracts to universities). In La Jornado (Mexico City) a syndicate of cartoonists and writers, show a close up of the face of Che with a Swoosh displayed on the front of his beret.  There is a caption that reads "Che 1997" (Carty, 1999: 299).  What is neat about this example is how it exposes the way in which Nike recycles leftist ideology in its ads while failing to deliver same for its Asian workers.  Using art to resist Nike's production and distribution networks has been effective enough to raise awareness among consumers and is one of the reasons Nike is retiring both Swoosh and slogan.

6. Trim the add budget by $100 million dollars from 750 million back to 650. This would finance a living wage for workers in Indonesia and much of Vietnam. Another $100 million would take care of China. Tiger Woods and Phil Knight could each take a cut. More and better wage studies are needed to set out the living wages of various countries.  

7. Integrate the executive ladder.  As far as I know Jesse Jackson's claim that Nike advertises itself as Black and soulful while not hiring but a token black manager in Beaverton, Oregon. How many Blacks, Asians, and Native Americans work at the Nike campus in Beaverton and what kinds of jobs do they hold?

8. Web Cams. What if Nike was required to install web cameras in factories that have a long history of labor rights and health and safety abuses. Some well-placed web cameras would discourage physical and sexual abuse and might encourage training workers in safety practices.  A worker using his bare hands to spread the glue could be seen on the camera, as could workers who do not wear suitable masks. A few web cams could give 24/7 monitoring to universities with Nike contracts. Of course one does not hear the noise or smell the toxic fumes with a web cam, but other electronics could fill this niche.

9. Better Methodologies - Nike's claim is that NGOs and activists do not use proper scientific methodology in their studies of Nike overseas practices. And activists and NGOs and most academics I know accuse the Nike sponsored Andrew Young Report of being ad PR study and endorsement with sloppy methods. Goodworks International Inc. is after all a PR firm (did Nike buy one more endorsement?) and can a study of labor practices in three countries taking a total of 12 days be anything but questionable science?  the methods of the Amos Tuck Business School (Dartmouth Study) released October 16th, 1997 also came under critique for its serious flaws in analysis and methodology.  My favorite is accepting Nike's claim that actually interviewing the workers would be a violation of scientific methods, since workers are obviously biased in these matters. Nike has removed the report from its web site and no one I know takes the study seriously.  The Ernst and Young audits as well as the Coopers et al replacement firm have also received low marks in methodology and bias. So here is opportunity for academics from accounting, marketing, management, and sociology -- up the stakes in methods for both Nike and the critical NGOs. There is also work for ethnomethodologists, to study the methods of both factions as well as the supposed neutral methods of the academics.  Sorting through the claims and counter-claims about poor methods and rightful methods could consume several academic careers.

10. Narrative Ethics - There are narratives put out by Nike in its advertising, press releases, annual reports, speeches, and shareholder meetings that seem to violate narrative ethics.  When a narrative is crafted there is a demand on the hearer or reader for answerability.  Does the narrative that purports certain values and ideals answer the challenges of consequence, context, and reference?  If Nike advertises itself as promoting the ideals of self-empowerment, while removing empowerment from its subcontracting workforce, is this narrative ethical?  If Nike has a code of conduct but does not live up to it, is this a violation of narrative ethics. Zygmunt Bauman argues that even postmodern narratives have ethical accountability.  An answerability that resounds in the network of communities in which the narrative flourishes. In the postmodern condition of late modern capitalism and postmodern consumer culture, Nike narratives are an increasing topic of dissertations.  The narratives are also countered by the post-WTO social movements which question the story of post-capitalism as the only way such a story could be scripted.  In other words, other forms of capitalism, such as the Baca shoe company operating in Indonesia but paying three times the wage of its Nike counterpart stands in contrast to Nike's narrative that no other way of doing economics in the 3rd world is possible.  Spinning out propaganda and disinformation seems to violate both modern and postmodern narrative ethics. Introducing more deconstruction of Nike ads, speeches, releases and reports is a way to tame the corporate discourse of Nike. Nike is challenged to live up to the images it manufacturers, to become the identity it struggles against, "enlightened capitalist."