Activists Demonstrate at Nike 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
(Seattle, WA) – This morning 25 protesters, including Uzbek human rights activists, labor groups, and concerned consumers, held a demonstration in front of Nike’s store in downtown Seattle to urge the company to stop doing business with Daewoo International, the largest processor of forced labor cotton in Uzbekistan. The protestors delivered more than 90,000 petitions calling on Nike to cut ties with Daewoo.
For decades, the government of Uzbekistan, under the autocrat Islam Karimov, 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 and continues to refuse the International Labor Organization’s efforts to monitor the cotton harvest.
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 claims to be a champion of human rights,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “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.”
Nike, which only sources synthetic material from Daewoo International, 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 Paola Rodriguez, Creative Director at AwarenessProjects.org. “It is time for Nike to take a meaningful stand against forced labor in Uzbekistan.”