Are sponsored athletes heroes or part of the race to the bottom?

Last November, a US college reporter spent three weeks in Indonesia living with and interviewing workers who make goods for Nike, Adidas, and Puma. When you buy a pair of Nike shoes do you think of RM, a 32-year-old mother who works 55 hours, six days a week and makes just $184 a month after 12 years at the PT Nikomas factory? A Nike subcontractor that employs 25,000 people. That’s 83 cents an hour or $2,208 a year.

RM doesn't want Nike to leave Indonesia; she wants an end to verbal abuse and a 50% raise, which would allow her to better provide for her family.

Wages in Vietnam are even lower than Indonesia. Nike’s largest production centre is in Vietnam where 330,000 mostly young women workers with no legal rights earn just 48 to 69 cents an hour, according to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLHR).

According to the IGLHR’s A Race to the Bottom report, Those $100-$200 Nike shoes you buy in stores carry a declared customs value of $5.27 per pair, according to a sampling of ten shipments of Nike shoes from Vietnam destined for the US market.

In 2014, Nike contracted 150 factories in 14 countries to produce more than 365 million pairs of shoes, according to IGLHR. Vietnamese workers made 43 percent of those shoes; Chinese workers made 28 percent; and Indonesians made 25 percent. Not one pair was made in the United States.

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