Montreal, Que., & Toronto, Ont., & Pittsburgh, Pa. -- Four unions representing over three million workers in the US and Canada have called on the United Nations to review Nike's affiliation with the UN Global Compact because the unions contend that Nike systematically violates workers' rights.
Companies associate themselves with the UN Global Compact as a way to show themselves as being socially responsible. In doing so, they commit to make the nine Compact principles- concerning human rights, labor rights and the environment- part of their strategy, culture and operations. Nike affiliated itself to Compact in 2000.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Presidents of the four unions claim that Nike systematically violates Compact's Principle Three, that businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
The unions cite Nike's ongoing restructuring at its Bauer Nike Hockey subsidiary as a problem area. In 1995, when Nike purchased Bauer, the hockey apparel and equipment producer employed over 1,100 union-represented workers at three facilities in Canada. Bauer Nike Hockey recently announced plans to shut two of the facilities and drastically downsize the third. Aside from Bauer Nike Hockey, none of Nike's over 23 thousand employees are unionized.
"We believe that Nike's combined historic absence of union representation and decimation of union representation at facilities that it acquired, demonstrate that Nike systematically violates workers' association and collective bargaining rights," the unions state in the letter to Annan.
"While we understand that Compact currently has no mechanism to force compliance with Compact principles, your website states that the Global Compact Advisory Council is devising provisions to manage instances in which companies are misusing their affiliation with the Global Compact. We believe that Nike should be reminded of this and should be subject to these provisions if it fails to change course."
The unions that submitted the letter are the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union (GMP), Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (IWA Canada) and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).