Nike takes in billions from official World Cup team jerseys made by $4/day workers

I watched the USA soccer team win its group in the World Cup, then lose to Ghana in the knockout round. Then I turned to my second favorite team, Brazil. I’m part of a World Cup television audience of more than a billion fans, and like most of them I lusted after the official team jerseys—a white USA shirt, perhaps, with number 10, Donovan, on the back, or a brilliant yellow and green Brazil shirt, also with number 10, Kaká. No, I think I like best the red and green number seven jersey of the world’s best player, Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo. Seventy dollars for the home jersey, sixty for the more colorful away version. But I won’t be buying any.

All these official jerseys are made by Nike. Well, actually, Nike doesn’t make any sports gear. The shirts are made by a Nike contractor in Indonesia, whose workers earn $4/day, barely enough to pay rent, transportation, water, and two small bowls a day of rice and vegetables.

Nike long ago took the position that it has no responsibility for the pay or working conditions in the factories that make Nike gear, but over the past ten years it has slowly, ever so slowly, started to take an interest and maybe even some influence, thanks to one man, a 38-year old sometime goalkeeper named Jim Keady, who has devoted his life for years to pushing, pulling, cajoling, and shaming Nike into seeing that the people who make the merchandise that Nike sells for $20 billion a year get a living wage.

Today’s Los Angeles Times ran a profile on Jim and his work. Anybody with an interest in business ethics should read it.

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