MONTREAL / TORONTO / PITTSBURGH - April 14 -Four unions representing over three million workers in the US and Canada have called on the United Nations to review Nikes affiliation with the UN Global Compact because, the unions contend, Nike (NYSE: NKE) systematically violates workers rights.
The UN Global Compact is an initiative that corporations seeking to cast themselves as socially responsible affiliate to. 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 Compacts Principle Three, that businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
The unions cite Nikes ongoing restructuring at its Bauer Nike Hockey subsidiary. 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 Nikes over 23 thousand employees are unionized.
We believe that Nikes 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.
The unions note the limitations of Compact while still urging the UN to raise this issue with Nike.
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 there 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 CLC, GMP, IWA Canada and USWA. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) brings together 2.5 million workers that are members of over 100 affiliate unions in a host of industries throughout Canada. The Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union (GMP) represents 50,000 workers in a broad range of industries in the United States and Canada.
The Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (IWA Canada) represents over 50,000 workers in the forestry, manufacturing, building materials and other industries throughout Canada. The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) is a diversified union representing over 500,000 workers throughout the US and Canada primarily in the metals, manufacturing and mining industries as well as the service sector.
The letter to Annan was copied to heads of labor organizations taking an active role in the UN Global Compact. It was also copied to the Executive Head of Compact and to nearly 1,300 of Nikes top shareholders. The letter can be viewed at https://www.uswa.org/uswa/program/adminlinks/docs//PDF%20nike%20letter%20with%20signatures.pdf