Do You Support a Terrorist Group?
I am an 18-year-old art student who has financially supported
a terrorist group for over ten years. The group I supported abuses women and
young teenagers physically and sexually. There are reports that one can view,
at www.sweatshopwatch.org, that confirm that the terrorist group is directly
responsible for the deaths of innocent people. The terrorist group I supported
is a multi-billion dollar corporation that we’re all familiar with —Nike.
President George W. Bush has been calling for a “war on terrorism”
for over a year now. His primary targets were Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda
terrorist groups. But while he’s at it, he might as well declare war on
the greedy, multi-billion dollar corporations here in America that have been
abusing the poor for several years now. While Al Qaeda terrorizes people by
crashing planes into buildings and blowing up oil tankers, Nike terrorizes people
by providing unhealthy sweatshop conditions that lead to death and the physical
and sexual abuse of young teenagers. In addition, one cannot ignore Nike’s
theft of millions of dollars from their workers by not paying them living wages
while the administrators pocket the profits for themselves. Nike and Al Qaeda
use their power to commit horrible atrocities and deserve the attention of those
who wish to end terrorism.
Nike isn’t the only corporation that terrorizes the poor. Adidas, Banana
Republic, Disney, Eddie Bauer, Gap, Guess?, Kathie Lee garments (sold at Wal-Mart),
Old Navy, and Taco Bell have partaken in acts that terrorize the citizens of
Third World countries. In their pursuit to “stay competitive,” these
corporations have resorted to abusing the poor.
The CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, made over $10 million last year, while workers
in Haitian sweatshops are paid 12 cents an hour sewing Mickey Mouse and Pocahontas
pajamas. The average workers are young females who are forced to work 105 hours
a week under slave-like treatment. For example, workers have to sleep in overcrowded
rooms, sometimes squeezing eight women in a five foot by ten foot room —
the size of an average household bathroom.
Migrant workers are paid 45 cents for every 32 pound bucket of picked vegetables
for Taco Bell. This means they are required to pick almost two tons of vegetables
a day to earn a scanty 50 dollars.
The most basic survival needs in Hong Kong can be met if a wage earner makes
87 cents an hour. Yet Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Eddie Bauer pay their
workers an average of only 25 cents an hour. The workers are also subjected
to slave-like treatment, such as physical and emotional abuse.
Similar or worse conditions have been found in the factories of Guess? and Kathie
Lee. But the king of terrorist corporations is unquestionably the owner of the
“swoosh” logo — Nike.
Clean Clothes Campaign, a campaign set up to unmask and end the abuse and greed
of corporations like Nike, reported that the low wages have led to the separation
of families. Andrew Hewett, Executive Director of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad
stated, “Nike ... workers who want to live with their children are going
into debt to meet their families’ basic needs. Most are forced by their
poverty to send their children to distant villages, to be cared for by relatives.”
The Oxfam reports have also found that Nike’s largest Indonesian supplier
forces women who want a “legally mandated menstrual leave” to pull
down their pants in front of factory doctors to prove they are menstruating.
Workers stated in interviews that if their supervisors don’t think they
are working at a fast enough pace, they are either screamed at, forced to clean
toilets, or made to run around factory grounds. One woman stated that a supervisor
threw a book at her for working too slowly.
Over 4,400 Nike workers were questioned in an Oxfam report that concludes that
nearly 11 percent of those questioned were abused sexually and another 30 percent
claimed they experienced or witnessed physical abuse. Nike called the reports
“troubling” but did not deny any of them.
Rudi Hartono, head of the Association of Shoe Factory Workers, has stated that
research has shown that in order for the Nike workers to earn enough to cover
basic living needs, their wages must be raised 75 percent. “Is that such
a hardship considering that the cost of making a pair of shoes, including labor,
is only about 0.4 percent of what it is sold for in the shops?”
The New York Times, CNN, and CBS’ 48 Hours have all exposed some of the
atrocities being committed in Nike’s factories. But the fact remains:
Nike is able to continue its abuse of workers, sometimes to the point of death
(two workers in separate factories died due to lack of medical attention from
Nike factory doctors) because the American public continues their support for
Nike products. We jail financial supporters of Al Qaeda, yet we ourselves are
paying billions of dollars every year to a company who, in my estimation, exercises
their own form of terrorism.
The thought of terrorism triggers images of collapsing buildings and exploding
oil tankers. Not so often do images of sweatshop abuse and poverty-stricken
villages come to mind. If we truly want to end terrorism in our world, then
I believe that the injustices of corporate America should be addressed as well.
Illustration by Ruchika Gandotra