Activists Demonstrate at Nike Flagship Store, Call on Nike to Drop Company Profiting from Forced Labor Cotton
While Competitors Take Action, Nike Shelters Supplier with Deep Ties to Brutal Uzbek Regime
(Portland, OR) – Today, 30 Uzbek human rights defenders, labor groups, and concerned consumers demonstrated at Nike’s flagship store in downtown Portland to urge the company to stop doing business with Daewoo International, the largest processor of forced labor cotton in Uzbekistan. The protesters delivered more than 90,000 petitions calling on Nike to cut ties with Daewoo.
“Nike claims to be a champion of human rights,” said Paola Rodriguez, Creative Director at AwarenessProjects.org. “But Nike’s decision to protect Daewoo sends a dangerous message to other companies and damages the efforts of Uzbek citizens who have risked their lives to bring justice to Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.”
For decades, the government of Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov, who has ruled since 1989, has forced millions of children, teachers, public servants and private sector employees to pick cotton under appalling conditions. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits or worse. The government combines these penalties with threats, detains and tortures activists seeking to monitor the situation. Uzbek human rights defenders and international partners released a report on the ongoing abuses earlier this month.
Daewoo International, a South Korean-based company owned by the steel manufacturer POSCO (NYSE: PKX), is one of only a handful of companies that have defied an international call to stop using Uzbek cotton harvested using forced labor.
Nike, which only sources synthetic material from Daewoo International’s facility in Busan, has refused to end its relationship with Daewoo in spite of the fact that several other companies, including H&M, The Limited, C&A, and Michael Kors, have made moves to cut ties with the South Korean company.
"We are calling on Nike to follow the lead of other apparel and footwear companies by cutting ties with Daewoo,” said Chris Ferlazzo, Organizer at Portland Jobs with Justice. “It is time for Nike to take a meaningful stand against forced labor in Uzbekistan.”
INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM (ILRF) is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. www.LaborRights.org
JOBS WITH JUSTICE is a national campaign for workers’ rights. Working through coalitions of labor, community, religious and constituency organizations, Jobs with Justice is fighting for workers’ rights and economic justice. www.jwjpdx.org
CONTACT: Cotton Campaign Coordinator - c/o International Labor Rights Forum, 1634 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. +1 202-347-4100, cottoncampaigncoordinator [at] gmail.com