Like other large corporations, Nike looked to expand their operations outside North America. Many companies do this because of the law and wage demands of the United States making overseas operations very appealing. Employment laws are scarce and labor is cheap in most third world countries and can be easily become targeted by giant corporations such as Nike.
In the beginning, Nike probably selected countries like Indonesia and Vietnam because of the vast poverty level and wage demand given the demographics. I highly doubt Nike moved into Indonesia and Vietnam thinking that their ethical demeanor was about to be challenged. That all changed when Global Alliance exposed Nike and forced them to take an account for their unethical actions. All the while, most people in North America and around the world continue to purchase Nike products without a second thought.
Nike has been accused with human rights violations for many reasons. The allegations brought against Nike included that of the use of child labor in factories, unsafe working conditions to include exposure to toxic chemicals, the use of machinery without the proper safety training or safeguards, pay below minimum wage and working people like dogs even to point of death in extreme cases. The established factories Nike created to produce its products were in no way used to promote human rights. On the contrary, these sweatshop establishments became a major ethical dilemma for Nike. So much so that Nike had do decide whether to continue to benefit from cheap labor practices and risk more scutiney or spend more money to improve the factories, training of employees, and overall working conditions.
Nike’s goal of profiting from the cheap labor cost of production was on target as they were doing just that. Nike’s blind eye to the fact they were profiting of employing children to make the product did not get their attention until the media is alerted about the situation. Nike now exposed, is forced to act because of how the college students and consumers are reacting to the media leakage. Nike’s Code of Conduct now states that Nike “opposes child labor” and that Nike has “set age standards at 16 for apparel and 18 for footwear factories,” (“Code of Conduct”).
Exposure to Toluene is harmful in many ways. Nike factories in Vietnam knowingly exposed workers to Toluene which is a major reproductive toxin. Lack of testing and regulation which is required in the United States under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-2, indicates the exposure was at least 177 times the legal limit. Employees were exposed to many other chemicals including glue without proper safety equipment and training. The Nike employees have been severely impacted by this because of Nike’s lack of concern for employee safety. Going to a third world country to pay less for work is one thing but treating people like slaves with complete disregard of their wellbeing is a huge ethical and moral issue.