New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Admins ask Nike to respond to wage theft allegations

Two administrators signed a letter asking Nike to address claims that one of its factories in Thailand coerced and did not pay its workers.
An email from the Office of Students Affairs and the Division of Campus Services to Nike.

NYU requested that Nike refute a report accusing the company of “refusing to pay workers their wages” at a factory in Thailand, which supplies the university’s bookstore with Nike-branded merchandise, in a letter last week. The letter is asking that the company provide “adequate assurances” that similar incidents will not happen again.

University administrators Jason Pina and Owen Moore, who signed the letter, cited a 2021 investigation conducted by Workers Rights Consortium, a labor rights monitor, alleging that the factory withheld over $800,000 from employees after it shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though managers at the factory and Nike have denied these claims, Pina and Moore said NYU is looking for a “credible and verifiable” response by May 1. 

NYU spokesperson John Beckman said that it “wouldn’t be appropriate to pre-judge” the university’s next steps before receiving a response from Nike.

“This has been a matter of concern to some student groups, and to organizations with which we partner, such as the WRC, and the letter reflects the University’s views and concerns about this matter,” Beckman wrote to WSN. “It seemed like sufficient time for Nike to address the NYU community’s concerns.” 

NYU’s chapter of the labor rights movement Pay Your Workers has been demanding that the university cut ties with Nike since last October. Pay Your Workers NYU has recently held several demonstrations outside the NYU Bookstore, also advocating for garment workers’ rights at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire memorial outside of the Silver Center last month. 

In a written statement to WSN, Pay Your Workers NYU said there is “no question” the university’s letter was a response to the group’s demonstrations, and that it “will not stop organizing” until NYU cuts its contract with Nike.

“This letter shows the positive influence student organizing can have in the fight for garment workers’ rights and dignity,” the statement reads. “While we are thrilled NYU is listening and intends to engage with Nike on this matter, the letter is four years late and lacks any mention of our ultimate demand: cutting the contract.” 

In 2021, the WRC — which NYU is affiliated with — reported that the factory in Bangkok, Hong Seng Knitting, organized a scheme to skimp workers of their partial wages, coerced employees with threats of job loss and unfairly retaliated against a worker who was lawfully protesting since May 2020. According to Thai law, employers were required to pay temporary workers at least 75% of their regular wages, regardless of whether they signed an “unpaid leave document.” However, after the factory closed in 2020, workers claimed they did not receive any compensation. 

In February, members of Pay Your Workers NYU sent a letter to university president Linda Mills, calling for NYU to cut its contract with Nike. In the letter, the group said Nike’s alleged wage theft violates the university’s brand licensing policy that “merchandise is manufactured under a code of conduct designed to reinforce fair-labor practices and prohibit sweatshop conditions.” The letter also claimed that NYU administration refused to meet with the group to discuss the company’s labor violations. 

The letter came after three NYU students were allegedly harassed at a protest outside a Nike store in Washington, D.C., where students from six different universities called on their respective institutions to cut ties with the company. 

We researched the claims and spoke with labor advocacy organizations,” Moore told WSN. “In our research, we did not find a satisfactory response from Nike to the allegations.” 

Nike did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Contact Dharma Niles at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Dharma Niles
Dharma Niles, Deputy News Editor
Dharma Niles is a first-year student currently studying journalism and politics at CAS, and has yet to choose between the six different minors she'd also like to pursue. You can generally find her playing NYT games, skittering around the city with a Celsius in hand or on Instagram @dharmaniles.

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