JACKSON LAUNCHES INSPECTION OF INDONESIAN SHOE FACTORIES
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER URGES PROBE OF LABOR IN PACIFIC RIM STATES
U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson arrived in Indonesia Friday to inspect working conditions in sports-shoe factories and said the world should focus on the labor environment in Pacific Rim nations.
"There must be an extended focus on this region of the world as this is the area of the most rapid, extensive economic growth," he told reporters at Jakarta's international airport at the start of a three-day visit.
"The question of child labor must be on the table, the question of prison labor must be on the table. The question of independent free trade unions and workers having the right to collective bargaining and the right to make livable wages (must be on the table)," he said.
Jackson will tour local manufacturing units of sports-shoe manufacturers Nike Inc. and Reebok International Ltd. during his visit.
He arrived from Tokyo, where he campaigned against alleged Japanese corporate sexual harassment at the Mitsubishi Motor Co.'s plant in Normal, Ill.
"The civil rights, social justice, gender equality and labor movement must put an expanded, concentrated focus on the Pacific Rim because of its dynamic impact on the world today and in the foreseeable future," Jackson said.
Human rights and labor advocates have staged protests in Washington this week demanding that Nike improve pay and conditions for its contract workers in Indonesia.
They accused the company of unfair dismissals, paying below the minimum wage and forcing workers to work overtime.
Nike has said the protesters were citing situations dating to 1992 that have been corrected.
NIKE REJECTS JACKSON REQUEST TO VISIT FACTORY
Nike rebuffed Jesse Jackson's attempt to tour one of its sports shoe factories Saturday, saying it didn't want to give him a "bully pulpit" to attack the company.
The American civil rights leader is visiting Indonesia to draw attention to complaints that Nike and other companies are exploiting workers who are paid as little as $1.90 a day.
Activists have seized upon inequities in the wages paid to foreign workers making products for the U.S. market. Some of America's largest retailers sell items produced in sweatshops.
Nike's rejection contrasted sharply with the response by its competitor Reebok, which flew an executive to Jakarta from Boston on Friday to give Jackson a factory tour.
In a toughly worded letter, Nike international trade counsel Brad G. Figel said the company was committed to ensuring its contractors treated workers fairly and allowed "unbiased observers" to visit its facilities frequently.
"Unfortunately, our previous experience with the Rainbow Coalition (led by Jackson) leads us to believe that your visit would lack that unbiased approach. It is not our desire to open our contract factories merely to provide a bully pulpit to someone who fails to provide a neutral viewpoint regarding the issues," Figel's letter said.
Jackson released a copy of it to reporters.
Late Saturday, he went to a factory outside Jakarta run by Nike contractor PT Garuda Indonesia. He wasn't allowed in, but gave the manager a letter addressed to Nike Chairman Philip Knight.
"We call upon you and Nike Inc. to recognize the basic right of workers for free association into unions for their own protection and advancement," Jackson's letter said.
Jackson and his delegation of U.S. civil rights activists and labor organizers joined hands in a circle and prayed outside the factory before leaving.
Labor and human rights activists criticize the government of President Suharto for allowing only one labor union. Independent labor leaders who demand better pay and working conditions are jailed and harassed.