Letters

Fancy Footwork

I was disappointed to read Andrew Hsiao's recent article, "One Man's Crusade Against Nike" [October 10], recounting the accusations of a former office assistant at St. John's University, Jim Keady, who spent a month visiting Indonesia. Unfortunately, Mr. Hsiao's article perpetuates misinformation about Nike's global manufacturing practices and Mr. Keady's intentions. In addition, Mr. Keady's statements in this article are less about the plight of workers and more about his alleged hardships, which we feel is another attempt on Mr. Keady's part to bolster his profile—once again calling into question his credibility and his seriousness about improving conditions for workers.

As noted in the article, Mr. Keady's lawsuit against Nike and St. John's was dismissed. The U.S. District Court judge's ruling stated that Mr. Keady "acted in bad faith" in pursuing the lawsuit and that Mr. Keady was not in fact a soccer coach at St. John's but rather an administrative assistant in the men's soccer office. The ruling further found that St. John's did not force Mr. Keady to resign; rather, his decision to resign was "made on his own accord."

The court's finding of bad faith underscores what Nike has maintained throughout Mr. Keady's crusade against the company: that Mr. Keady's motives are suspect, his research dubious, and his conduct and methods questionable. He has never so much as been inside a factory where our products are made. In addition, it is disappointing that Mr. Keady believes he has grasped the culture, lives, and economic condition of the more than 100,000 individuals who make Nike products in Indonesia based on a one-month stay and without even speaking the language.

Unlike Mr. Keady, Nike has made a long-term commitment to continuously improve the workplace and the welfare of individuals in our partner factories in Indonesia and worldwide. To date, Nike has increased wages over 70 percent for entry-level Indonesian footwear factory workers. Nike also has increased age requirements for all Nike footwear workers to 18 years. Age requirements for apparel workers have been increased to 16 years. These standards are the highest in Indonesia. What Mr. Keady and Mr. Hsiao fail to realize is that jobs in Nike contract facilities provide opportunities to build a lifestyle and life skills that are not typically available in other wage-earning areas where our products are manufactured.

Vada Manager
Director of Global Issues Management
Nike, Inc.
Beaverton, Oregon

Andrew Hsiao replies: It's understandable that Keady and his lone pro bono lawyer haven't prevailed against Nike's legal teams in court, particularly when corporate might is mobilized on behalf of legalistic dodges like calling Keady an "office assistant." The "1997 St. John's Men's Soccer Media Guide" lists Keady as a "Graduate Assistant Coach," notes his "abundance of goalkeeping experience and professionalism," and states, "Keady will assist in all aspects of the program with a concentration on the team's academic enhancement and goalkeeping training." Doug Beaumont, who worked in the St. John's Athletic Department at the time, says, "He was there for one reason: to coach the men—and, incidentally, women—goalies." Even Nike's online response to Keady calls him a "former assistant soccer coach." Manager knows that Keady offered to work in a Nike factory for up to six months, but Nike refused. The company barred Keady from merely visiting a Nike factory in Indonesia. The recent Community Aid Abroad/Oxfam Australia report I cited suggests why: It documents numerous instances of harassment and intimidation of union organizers, cruel treatment, and forced overtime in Nike's Indonesian factories. Still, workers like Julianto, the 23-year-old former hot-press operator mentioned in the article, who helped lead a massive protest at his plant last December, persist in fighting Nike. It has taken years of furious organizing—in the face of repeated efforts by Nike factories to win exemptions from Indonesia's paltry minimum wages—for workers like Julianto to wrest from Nike the small improvements the company now shamelessly crows about.


Political Pride

Re Wayne Barrett's "Senator Straddle" [October 10]: Eleven years is a long time to wait for a hate crimes bill. Still, it's an oversimplification to blame a single state senator, especially one like Roy Goodman who has been a vocal advocate for gay and lesbian equality for decades. It also underplays the vital role he played in ensuring that justice was not further delayed.

Voting the Republicans out of Albany is not necessarily the only way to achieve equality for lesbian and gay New Yorkers. We may, in fact, have moved to a new stage of bipartisanship on lesbian and gay state politics in New York; it is certainly too soon to discount the possibility out of hand. Remember, this was the year that the legislature, including the senate Republican majority, repealed the state's consensual sodomy law. The assembly seems to have gotten the bipartisan message, with ever growing majorities on both sides of the aisle continually voting for a number of gay equality initiatives.

True social progress will come when legislators from all parties and parts of the state realize that voting with the two-thirds of New Yorkers statewide who support gay equality issues is not only the right thing but the politically smart thing to do. The time may come for people committed to equality to oust even our friends in the senate Republican conference who attempt to serve as part of the solution but whose inability to move their conference makes them part of the problem. But when Senator Goodman and others have convinced their colleagues, including Majority Leader Joseph Bruno himself, to vote sexual orientation into New York law and vote the last vestiges of gay criminalization out, this year is not the time.

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