“fie Ikon I’ll Put a fink Something Oyer sour meet” Helen Handley in Concert At The Old Creek, Theatre, 1974 Cassette Tapes $12.99 JIM HIGHTOWERI Well, if you buy Nike shoes, you’re buying the ones that literally walked out on American shoemakers, having run off to Asia to do all of Nike’s manufacturing. There’s no romance in Nike’s corporate heart thoughit fled to Asia out of sheer greed, wanting to exploit cheap labor there. Wait a minute, wails Philip Knight, Nike’s billionaire honcho, who wants to have it both wayshe wants to exploit workers without being called an exploiter. Knight claims that his Nike “Code of Conduct” requires that its Asian shoemakers be treated fairly and paid at least the minimum wage of the countries in which they work. Ha! Phil should visit some of his factories to see how his code is working. Not a pretty sight. Two Hong Kong human-rights research groups did visit four Nike plants in China’s Pearl River Delta and issued these findings: China’s legal minimum wage is $1.90 a day for eight hours of work, but Nike workers are paid a pitiful $1.20 a daynot enough to cover such basics as food and decent shelter. Mostly girls and young women, Nike’s Chinese shoemakers are crowded twelve to a room in dorms, sharing one bath. They must work compulsory overtime that routinely results in seventy-hour weeks. If they protest, they’re fired. Working conditions in Nike’s factories are out of the Dark Agesunbearable heat, noxious fumes and dust, no talking during work, beatings by security guards, and a rush-rush assembly line that commonly causes the women to lose fingers and even hands in the machinery. China’s laws require that pregnant workers get maternity leave. But at Nike, if you’re pregnant, you’re fired. You’re also fired if you’re “too old”by which they mean over twenty-five. Next time you see one of Nike’s feelgood image ads, picture the reality of how it treats its women shoemakers in China. JUDGE GOOBER Time again to hand out another of Hightower Radio’s highly-coveted “Gooberhead Awards,” which I give periodically to those public figures who’ve got their tongues running 100 miles an hour, but don’t seem to have their minds in gear. Today’s Goober is an administrative law judge in Superior, Wisconsin: Charles Schaefer. Judge Schaefer recently handled the case of June Lauer, a lady who worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, until she got fed up with the vile language and sexual harassment of her manager there. This manager apparently was a real fathead, not only mouthing off to women subordinates about oral sex and one’s private parts, but also suggesting that the women should get tattoos of Colonel Sanders on their breasts. Cute guy, huh? But he’s not even the Gooberhead! That honor falls on the judge. After June Lauer was driven out of work by this verbal harassment, she filed for her unemployment benefits, which Kentucky Fried Chicken protested. The case came to Judge Schaefer, who last month ruled against Ms. Lauer. His reasoning? He said the manager might have been using sex talk with the women toare you ready?boost morale! He wrote, and I quote: “Use of vulgar and obscene language can serve to promote group solidarity.” Can you believe this guy? He said that while the manager’s language was unprofessional, it was “essentially locker-room talk” that was intended “to achieve a legitimate business goal.” Hey I’ll bet Mary Albert wishes he’d gotten this judge! Asked about his perverse ruling by an AP reporter, Schaefer still didn’t have a clue: “Isn’t that true?” he asked the reporter. “Haven’t you seen that kind of locker-room talk bolster morale?” No, judge, I haven’tyou Gooberhead! Excuse meI’ve got to go take a shower now. Nike: Image vs. Reality There:s a country song in which a jilted lover laments, “I bought the shoes that just walked out on me.” NOVEMBER 21, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
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