New York, New York (May 12, 1998)

Nike Raises Minimum Age of Workers in Footwear Factories to 18

In a stunning announcement on May 12, Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, declared that the minumum age of footwear factory workers in Indonesia would be raised to 18 years of age. The decision changes a history of child labor in Indonesia, where, according to watchdog groups, factory workers have been found as young as twelve years old.

Brought to recent public attention by Michael Moore's film "The Big One", Nike's labor practices overseas have raised a firestorm of questions for Mr. Knight and his company. Publicity from Moore's film and the resulting attention Nike received have pressured Knight to respond to the world and attempt to justify his company's labor practices.

"I congratulate Nike and Phil Knight on the brave decision to raise the minumum age of factory workers," says Mr. Moore. "In making 'The Big One', I hoped that we could change social policy at one of the world's largest employers. I did not expect the change to happen this quickly."

Moore also credited the work of Garry Trudeau (whose "Doonesbury" cartoon has taken on Nike), the Corporate Crime Reporter neslwetter, and student groups across the country who have organized around the Nike issue. "This is the first of what we hope will be many steps regarding Nike's manufacturing conditions and the wages they pay," said Moore.

Michael Moore first posed the question of age in "The Big One", where he interviews Knight extensively. In their discussions, topics ranged from workers' wages to length of days, to the young people working in his factories.

"I really don't think it would do anything for the country if we raised whatever the age rate was that we allow these people to go to work in that factory," said Knight in a part of the interview not featured in the film. "But you know it's a bit of a new issue, but I don't really think it's child labor. I've never really thought of it like that."

"As a favor to me, would you at least consider it? Would you at least think about this as a possibility?," asked Moore.

Knight said he would.

From their second meeting, four months later:

Moore: And you've agreed to at least consider this issue of not having people working under the age of eighteen?

Knight: You're the first person to raise it and I will raise it with our production people.

Moore: Just tell 'em, no one under sixteen, [in] our shoe factories. You're Phil Knight. Just tell 'em.

Knight: Well, actually, I think that within a fairly short period of time you'll see that, but it won't happen over the next six months.

It finally happened last Tuesday, May 12, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where Phil Knight took the podium to defend Nike and announce his worker age reform.

Knight's decision to change Nike's policies is a great step towards promoting the welfare of its Indonesian employees. Yet there are many areas that still need to be improved. Hopefully the film's release around the country will continue to put pressure on Nike and the other companies featured in the movie.

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