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by Sang Jun Lee

nike1An easy way to obtain a real (or genuine) customized Nike shoe is to order a shoe from the following Nike webpage: www.nikeid.com.

For those who wonder about how Nike makes shoes or are interested in the shoe making process more generally, here is how our shoes are made by most companies (including Nike):

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First, Nike needs to design a shoe that will “hook” target customers. They spend millions of dollars in doing so.  A drawn sample and “tech package” are necessary before manufacturing begins.

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This is an example of  a “tech package” designed using a computer program.

Second, the Nike sends these design samples to factories located in Indonesia, Vietnam and many other Southeast Asian countries.

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Third, Nike needs supplies such as fabric, plastic, rubber, foams, metallic, textiles and leathers to make a shoe.

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Human rights violations start here, when shoe companies like Nike buy large amounts of natural rubber in order to make a shoe.

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How are working conditions in a rubber plantation? A Vietnamese colonial rubber plantation worker and later Vietnamese revolutionary, Tran Bu Binh, described the working and living condition at his workplace during the French colonial time as “hell on earth” (read more in his book, available here). About 17 percent of plantation workers were killed on the job between1920 and 1927; workers who survived did so despite hazardous and physically demanding work conditions.

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And working conditions now are no different from the early 20th century colonial period. In Liberia in 2006, angry plantation workers conducted a huge strike against Firestone, fighting for pay increases, better working conditions, and the abolishment of child labor.  Those workers were paid US$3.38 a day and had almost no safety resources available.

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Once Nike gathers all supplies, the company starts manufacturing shoes. There are four steps involved: Sewing (of upper section above the sole), stock fitting (prepares the sole), lasting (prepares attachment of upper to the sole), and finally finishing (attach the sole, putting in shoelaces and finalizing). After this process, the shoes finally reach your local Nike store. Perhaps unsurprisingly, human rights violations also occur at this, the manufacturing level.

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In Indonesia, shoe workers at a Nike factory are supposed to be paid US$4 a day but are actually paid $3.70. Millions of Indonesian workers went on strike last year, fighting for a minimum wage increase, and were able to achieve the goal. Nonetheless, the Nike factory found a loophole to get around the law and are still paying less than minimum wage.

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Not only this, workers at other Nike factories are verbally abused, and sometimes physically abused. They are kicked, slapped, and frequently supervisors throw shoes at them and call them pigs and dogs.

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nike15Now, you are wearing your brand new, customized Nike shoe.  How comfortable is it? Can you hear the angry voices from shoe factory workers in other countries fighting for fair work conditions? Now, is it really comfortable?

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