Nike Inc. is hoping to set the record straight.
After students at Georgetown University called for the school to end its licensing partnership with the brand earlier this week — following an investigation that revealed workers’ rights violations at a Nike factory in Vietnam — the company is speaking out about its strategy for protecting employees at its contract facilities.
“Nike’s been deeply committed to workers and improving conditions in contract factories for more than 20 years, and that commitment remains as strong today as ever,” the Beavorton, Ore.-based brand said in an emailed statement to Footwear News.
This week, about 17 students who are part of the workers’ rights advocacy group Georgetown Solidarity Committee occupied the president’s office, demanding that the university refuse to renew Nike’s contract to produce licensed Georgetown jerseys and shoes after it expires on Dec. 31.
The students cited a report released on Tuesday by labor rights group Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) — which collaborated with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) — that found numerous violations of university labor standards at the Nike contracted Hansae factory in Vietnam as the catalyst for the protest. Among the infractions were wage theft, verbal abuse of workers, pregnancy discrimination, forced overtime and “an array of health and safety violations.”
But Nike said it has already been working aggressively with FLA and Hansae to address the labor issues.
“Hansae management, with Nike and FLA’s oversight, has developed a comprehensive remediation plan that addresses all of the issues identified in the joint investigation,” Nike said today. “Many corrective actions have already been implemented, and we are closely monitoring Hansae’s progress against its remediation plan. Nike has also imposed sanctions on the factory that have reduced our production orders so that Nike now represents 3 percent of current production volume.”
Nike also pointed out that at the time of WRC and FLA’s inspection, Nike manufacturing occurred in only two of 12 total buildings at the Hansae manufacturing facility, which represented approximately 9 percent of factory production.
Despite the ongoing student backlash, Nike said it remains hopeful that it would reach an agreement on Georgetown’s licensing contract.