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Sunday, June 8, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters To The Editor

Nike Sweatshops In Asia -- Shoe-Factory Jobs First Rung Out Of Poverty For Workers

Why is everyone suddenly picking on Nike? Who cares what they pay their workers in Asia? Don't all these self-righteous meddlers (such as Garry Trudeau) realize that those workers are there because it's the best job they can get? If it weren't, those workers would go back to what they were doing before Nike came along.

People who rail about sweatshops fail to realize two things. 1. Pay is relative. $1.60/day in Cambodia is different from $1.60/day in Manhattan. 2. Nike didn't force or trick people into taking these jobs; the people came and stay of their own free will. Yes, their choices are much more limited than yours or mine, but at least a Nike factory offers them one more choice than they had before. No one's putting a gun to their heads.

The fact of the matter is that poor people the world over throw down their hoes and run to menial factory jobs as fast as the factories can take them. Apparently, they prefer 12-hour days indoors making shoes for $1.60 than 16-hour days trying to scratch a living out of the dirt as subsistence farmers.

Pressuring Nike will only cause fewer foreign factories to be built, thus denying others the chance to better their lives.

Vilify Nike? If anything, they should be commended. By investing in these impoverished communities, Nike does more to improve them than a boatload of CARE packages.

These shoe-factory jobs look menial, even degrading, to Americans, but they are the first rung on the ladder out of poverty. These workers don't have the skills to land jobs at Boeing or Microsoft. But if these workers save and invest, each succeeding generation will be better off.

Schools will be built, and filled with children no longer needed in the fields. These more-educated workers will attract industries with better paying jobs, and the upward spiral will continue. Capitalism works slowly, but it works. Bill Muse Seattle

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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