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Just Do It

January 31, 2009

Yesterday, Dr. Richard McIntyre from the the University of Rhode Island was the guest lecturer at the Friday seminar. He just recently released a book titled Are Worker Rights Human Rights? and was kind enough to stop by UMKC to give a lecture about it.

Before attending the lecture, I read chapter one from his book. I won’t disclose the information because it will be up to the reader to read it. I did find his presentation about the “sweating system” very interesting. John Commons, an institutional economist, coined the term “sweating system,” which refers to companies outsourcing their labor in order to distance themselves, and therefore, absolve themselves from any moral guilt in exploiting workers.

In the book, the story of Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong provides a great example of the “sweating system.”  Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong was a Vietnamese woman who died in the summer of 1997 while making sneakers for Nike. She was killed when a piece of shrapnel flew out of a machine and struck her heart killing her. “Nike’s response to this (and other similar incidents) was ‘we don’t make shoes’ (Larimer 1998, 30).” According to Dr. McIntyre’s analysis, Nike was correct because “Nike’s core business strategy involves outsourcing all manufacturing to subcontractors in poor asian countries.”

That begs the penultimate question. Did Nike apply the “sweating system” for their “Just Do It” slogan as well?

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