I just want a new pair of Tennis Shoes for pete’s sake!

I am still on my search for a new pair of sneakers. I’ve been wearing New balance until I read the following…

Of the major shoe manufacturers New Balance is typically considered more responsible than the rest. The company vows strict labor standards for its factories in the US as well as internationally, however watchdog groups have expressed concerns over New Balance contractors in China. Despite the company’s best efforts, the situation in China is such that conclusive monitoring of labor standards is virtually impossible. New Balance is unique insofar as it still makes over a one-fourth of its products in the US but the use of Chinese factories has opened New Balance up to a whole host of criticism on labor practices.

So I thought maybe I’d try a lesser known brand…

Puma has been repeatedly implicated in egregious violations of workers’ rights in Turkey, China, El Salvador, Indonesia and Mexico. Additionally, its products have been found to contain toxic chemicals. Company reports imply Puma is beginning to work on improvements, and the company has taken steps towards becoming more sustainable such as removing vinyl from its shoes. Popular though its products may be, its human rights and health and safety records prove that Puma is not a cool cat.

OK how about an old Standard…

In the 80s and early 90s, Reebok was the shoe to have. Reebok lost some of its popularity for a while, but its recent merger with Adidas puts these companies in the position to rival Nike’s number-one spot in the world of athletic wear. Reebok, like other companies in its industry, has publicized its efforts to be a better corporate citizen. Reebok was named the official footwear sponsor for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk for 2006, it participates in the Fair Labor Association’s assessment program and the company monitors code of conduct enforcement among overseas suppliers. Unfortunately, problems still exist. The National Labor Committee has documented a series of workers’ rights abuses at a Reebok supplier factory and LabourNet UK recently cited a situation at the Turkuaz textile plant where workers were forced to work long hours seven days a week, yet are still paid wages put them well below the poverty level.

Well maybe the cool kids know something I don’t…

Nike is the number one shoe company in the world and controls over one-fifth of the athletic shoe market in the US. The company is also one of the largest licensees of university apparel. Nike is praised for disclosing its factory locations and for employing independent monitors to assess compliance with the company’s supplier code of conduct, and for purchasing a majority of its energy needs from green sources. However, Nike critics maintain that these efforts do not go far enough to improve conditions for garment workers. Groups such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, United Students Against Sweatshops, and the National Labor Committee cite repeated labor violations at Nike supplier plants where employees are underpaid, overworked, and commonly face verbal and even physical abuse. Nike’s stated commitment to high labor standards has yet to translate into consistent practice.

Gee I’m running out of brand names I can think of…

Fila may be smaller than Nike and Adidas, but the sportswear company is still recognized the world over. If not number one in sales, the company certainly remains in the running for having one of the weakest responses to continued labor violations in the garment and shoe industry. Fila touts the high quality and Italian design of its products but the reality is that factory workers in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere are toiling in substandard conditions to put Fila’s brand on the market.

I did my research at Co-op America
See what your dollars are going to support and I’ll see you at the local thrift store unless anyone knows of a good local sneaker manufacturer…

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3 Comments

Filed under Common Cents

3 responses to “I just want a new pair of Tennis Shoes for pete’s sake!

  1. Alyssa

    I always appreciate a concerned citizen. We need more people like you in order for standards to change. Just to let you know about New Balance, as far as global manufacturers go (not just in shoes but all of retail) New Balance is one of the most active corporate citizens in this industry. The labor standards that where being discussed where in sub-contracted factories not New Balanced owned, and they do not have complete control over sub-contractors. But even in a company that cares the overall problem of globalism still effects their standards. However the manufactures will be more inclined to push on the subcontractors for better standards when customers demand it. The fact that New Balance is the only athletic shoe company that still produces in the US really does mean something. The best solution besides a bargain bin shoe is to buy New Balance that are made in the US. (just about any shoe from the 800 series and up) and they will identify the shoe as 100% US made. However those are a little more expensive than the other lines, but the quality and labor costs are higher.

  2. wilson

    It’s also worth thinking about companies that produce shoes in democracies, where workers at least have some options for redress. It’s interesting to note that Nike has repeatedly moved production OUT of countries as they became democracies — South Korea and Indonesia are examples.

  3. I think Nike’s are going to the retro look now for the more casual crowd. Their athletic line is ugly, but I like the retro looking ones.

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