Olympic Skiers Aren't the Only Ones in a Race to the Bottom
Tim Newman, Campaigns Director, International Labor Rights Forum
the top athletes around the world — and sports fans — prepare for the
upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, many workers in the sportswear
industry are laboring in sweatshop conditions. Workers globally are
subject to a range of worker rights violations,
low wages and precarious work to produce the clothing and equipment
worn by athletes from Olympic gold medal winners to the park around the
However, recently the Maquila Solidarity Network, the
International Trade Union Confederation, the International Textile,
Garment and Leather Workers Federation, and the European Clean Clothes
Campaign have established a new website called Clearing the Hurdles that evaluates major sportswear companies including Nike, adidas, Puma and New Balance on 36 different labor rights criteria.
of the great aspects of this new initiative is that the organizations
involved have identified proactive steps companies can take to improve
worker rights in their supply chains. The recommendations cover four
1. Develop a positive climate for freedom of association and collective bargaining;
2. Eliminate the use of precarious employment in sportswear supply chains;
3. Lessen both the frequency and negative impacts of factory closures; and
4. Take steps to improve worker incomes, with the goal of reaching a living wage for all workers.
Those recommendations are explained in a report
[PDF] released before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The letter
that the participating organizations sent to the sportswear companies
is a very useful tool for identifying where companies stand on key
worker rights issues and you can see it online here [PDF].
Another tool for consumers concerned about labor rights issues in the products you buy is the Free2Work
website which is a collaboration between ILRF and the Not For Sale
Campaign. Free2Work rates products and companies based on their
policies related to forced and child labor. The website is constantly
growing with new profiles from different industries and will eventually
also include more information on sportswear companies.