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Flashback: Nike Blasted by Bernie Sanders in 1997 for Outsourcing Jobs to Sweatshops in Vietnam

JOHN BINDER

In 1997, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blasted the Nike multinational corporation for outsourcing much of their workforce to alleged sweatshops in Vietnam.

During a speech on the Senate floor against the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) free trade deal that was being pushed at the time, Sanders called out Nike for its documented history of outsourcing jobs to the lowest wage regions of the world to maximize profits and cut labor costs. Sanders asked:

The real wages for American workers are continuing to decline. Yes, the CEOs of major corporations saw a 54 percent increase in their compensation. Yes, the stock market is hitting off the wall. Yes, the rich are getting richer. But what about the average worker. Well the front pages of corporate America’s newspapers don’t talk about it. But for the average American worker, despite all the so-called boom, the real wages are going down. People continue to work long hours for low wages…

If our workers are forced to compete against desperate people in Mexico or in China who are trying to get by on starvation wages. If we merge these economies, what is the ultimate result?

Sanders began reading from a 1997 Associated Press report about workers in Vietnam at a Nike factory who rioted after the multinational corporation allegedly failed to pay them the $2.50 minimum wage.

Sanders said:

If there’s an employer over here who is going to pay someone 50 cents an hour, why would they pay you $15 or $20 an hour. [Emphasis added]

Now, Nike has a habit of going to wherever in the world, wages are at rock bottom. Mexico is much too high wage for Nike. They’re now in Vietnam. They have determined that wages in Vietnam are the lowest in the world. [Emphasis added]

Let me quote this, ‘In demonstrations on Friday, workers burned cars and ransacked the factory’s office, saying the company, Nike, wasn’t paying them a $2.50 a day minimum wage.’ That’s our competition. That is what much of what the global economy is about. American workers, you really want to compete? You really want to go below $2.50 an hour? Nike might come back to America and hire you if you’re ready to go for $2 a day. You ready to do that? [Emphasis added]

Nike has most recently swept national headlines as their latest ad campaign stars former NFL player and original anthem protester Colin Kaepernick. As Breitbart News has chronicled, sports fans have boycotted Nike for the ad, burning their Nike gear in response, and the multinational corporation has taken a hit in stock market shares.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.

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