Global Sweatshop Resources

By Bill Bigelow

A Nike Production Primer, by “Justice. Do it NIKE!” P.O. Box 219231, Portland, OR 97225. 503-292-8168; e-mail: $10 contribution requested, includes postage. A collection of articles on Nike. I found this an invaluable resource, both for my own background knowledge as well as for articles I used with students. It includes several excellent Bob Herbert pieces from the New York Times, Sydney Schanberg’s “Six Cents an Hour,” Nike’s Code of Conduct, Cynthia Enloe’s Ms. magazine article, “The Globetrotting Sneaker,” and lots more. Also includes addresses of individuals whom students can write.

Global Village or Global Pillage: Economic Reconstruction from the Bottom Up, by Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello. Boston: South End Press, 1994, 237 pp. $14. South End Press, 116 Saint Botolph St., Boston, MA 02115; website: Provides a helpful wider framework to consider the “race to the bottom,” but also focuses on grassroots responses worldwide. I used the book as a source of examples and quotes to share with students.

Child Labor: A Selection of Materials on Children in the Workplace, by the American Federation of Teachers, International Affairs Dept., 555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001-2079. $1. e-mail: Includes a number of articles that could be useful with students, e.g., “Child Labor in Pakistan,” by Jonathan Silvers; and “Six Cents an Hour,” by Sydney Schanberg.” (Also ask them for their “Children Without Childhoods” 9-page supplement.)

It’s the Global Economy, Stupid: The Corporatization of the World. Special issue: The Nation magazine (July 15/22, 1996). Short articles provide a broader context for thinking about global sweatshop and child labor issues.


Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti, by the National Labor Committee, 275 7th Ave., 15th floor, New York, NY 10001. 212-242-3002. Approximately 20 minutes. Depictions of working and living conditions of Disney workers in Haiti. Responds effectively to the argument that it’s OK to pay workers in poor countries less because it costs less to live. (The National Labor Committee also distributes “Zoned for Slavery,” focusing on conditions for GAP sweatshop workers in Central America, which I have not seen, but which has gotten excellent reviews from other teachers. It includes extensive interviews with young workers and family members who describe the impact sweatshop labor has on their lives.)

Tomorrow We Will Finish, by UNICEF. Distributed by Maryknoll World Productions, 800-227-8523. 26 minutes. More than 150,000 girls between five and sixteen toil in 2,000 carpet factories in Nepal. This is the story of Suri and her friends. My students found it very compelling, in large part because it concentrates on telling just one girl’s story.

CBS “48 Hours” segment, Nike in Vietnam, available from CBS News, $29.95, plus shipping; 800-338-4847. About 20 minutes, first aired October 17, 1996. Focuses on an incident in a Nike factory in Vietnam where a Korean supervisor beat women, who make 20 cents an hour, on the neck and head with a shoe, and Nike’s response. Roberta Baskin talks with Vietnamese women and Nike PR people, and weaves a stark contrast of exploited workers and willfully ignorant company officials.

Dateline NBC segment, Toy Story. About 25 minutes, first aired Dec. 17, 1996. (Not commercially available.) Examines child labor in Indonesia and China. Reporter Stone Phillips poses as a U.S. toy manufacturer and “auctions” his toy business to sub-contractors who can produce items most cheaply.

Indonesia: Islands on Fire, Global Exchange. (See below for address, phone, and website) 25 minutes. Because this video focuses mostly on repression in Indonesia, and includes just a brief section on the role of transnationals like Nike, it would be useful only if a teacher decided to concentrate on Indonesia as an example of the social consequences of investment choices. But that’s also the video’s strength — that it locates sweatshop practices in the context of a particular society.

Organizations/Web Pages

Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 “E” St. SE, Washington, DC 20003. (email:; website: Publishes a very useful newsletter ($35 a year) filled with audio visual resources, fact sheets and updates on campaigns to support worker organizing around the world. Via e-mail, they also distribute updates on Nike and other CLR campaigns. CLR’s web page is excellent, and includes lots of links to other resources, as well as a new “teaching ideas” page.

National Labor Committee (for address/phone, see above under “Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti.”) One of the most prominent groups working to expose and eliminate sweatshops worldwide. While preparing these resources, I spoke with Maggie Poe, who has worked extensively with students and is very knowledgeable about potential classroom materials.

Nike Boycott Homepage, At this website, I found several of the articles that I used with students. Also available here is the recent report by Thuyen Nguyen of the Vietnam Labor Watch about conditions at Nike factories.

Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St. Rm. 303, San Francisco, CA 94110. 800-497-1994. website: Engaged in a host of global “people-to-people” projects, including leading “reality tours” to Third World countries, managing “fair trade” stores, and publishing resources on global justice issues. Membership, $35; free quarterly newsletter.

The Network of Educators on the Americas (NECA), P.O. Box 73038, Washington, DC, 20056-3038; 202-238-2379; e-mail:; website: Distributes classroom materials from a critical perspective on global issues. Call, write, or e-mail for their excellent (and free) “Teaching for Change” catalog.

Jobs With Justice, 501 Third St., NW, Washington, DC 20001-2797; website: A national labor, community, and religious coalition organized to fight for the rights of working people. Throughout the country JwJ has coordinated solidarity efforts for workers here and abroad. Their website lists local JwJ chapters.

Sweatshop Watch, 720 Market St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102; 415-391-1655. $20/ year. A coalition of unions, community groups, and legal advocates focusing especially on domestic sweatshop issues. Publishes a quarterly newsletter.

UNITE!, Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, 1710 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-5299; 212-265-7000. Involved in fighting sweatshops abroad and in the U.S.

NIKE, Inc. Consumer Affairs Division. 800-344-6453. They have an automatic fax line (when the system answers, press 1 then 3) and will fax you an annual report/company history (Doc. #650) and Nike manufacturing policies (Doc. #500).

Nike: Fair Play?, website: This website, based in The Netherlands, includes many articles about conditions at Nike plants, and recent strikes in Indonesia and Vietnam.