A protest at Mexmode – an assembly factory in Atlixco, Mexico that produces college sweatshirts for Nike and Reebok – in January 2001 over objectionable working conditions launched an international outcry from Mexican and U.S. labor activists. The Worker Rights Consortium, a D.C. based group created by university students, administrators, and labor rights experts, began an investigation and discovered that Mexmode workers were subject to low wages, verbal abuse, and corruption under existing union leadership. The group instantly began a campaign in conjunction with workers at the factory to pressure Nike, which has a history of sweatshop conditions in Asia, and Mexmode to improve working conditions.
Labor rights activists finally emerged victorious as Nike pressured factory managers to implement pay raises, eradicate child labor, form a grievance board, and reinstate workers fired as a result of protests. Workers are now forming a new, independent union. After gaining permission to form only two weeks ago, 80 percent of Mexmode’s workers have joined. The majority of workers at the factory are young women, most of them single mothers in their 20s with only limited education. Global Exchange, a non-profit organization that monitors Nike and their use of sweatshop labor, hails the Mexmode case as a success. “The experience at the Mexmode factory is hugely encouraging for the corporate accountability movement and the anti-sweatshop movement,” said Jason Mark, Communications Director. A Global Exchange report, however, shows that Nike still has far to go to alleviate sweatshop labor abuses as workers making Nike products still face sub-standard pay, long hours, verbal abuse, and violent intimidation.
Media Resources: New York Times, 10/8/01; Worker Rights Consortium Press Release, 1/26/01; Global Exchange; Feminist Majority Foundation