Nike rep, labor activist to meet tonight in debate

Sara Tennessen

ISU students will have a chance to learn more about labor in developing countries as a labor activist and a Nike representative go head-to-head in a debate tonight.

The point-counterpoint presentation will feature Naomi Klein, author of “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” and Simon Pestrige, labor practice manager for Nike Athletic Corporation.

The lecture “Labor in Developing Countries and Multinational Corporations: What’s Fair?” will be at 8 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

The lecture will focus on why some of the world’s most revered brand names such as Nike are being questioned about fairness, labor issues and consumer choice issues. It will include discussion on how corporations are addressing these concerns and working to upgrade factory conditions, said James Werbel, co-director of the Murray Bacon Center for Business and Ethics.

“The issue is that a lot of companies are using labor in different countries, and whether the workers are exploited or not,” said Werbel, professor of management.

The two speakers were chosen because of their knowledge of the topic, he said.

“Klein has written a book on the subject in which she directly attacks several companies, including Nike,” he said. “We asked Nike to send a speaker and [Pestrige] was picked.”

The debate-style presentation is an effective way to discuss labor in developing countries, said Russell Laczniak, professor and chairman of management and marketing in the College of Business.

“I think bringing people on both sides of the debate together is a good thing,” he said.

Werbel said the lecture should be important to students for several reasons.

“Many students consume these products,” he said. “There have been boycotts against Nike, and people may be making decisions to join based on ignorance.”

He said people need to be informed about international issues because they may have to deal with them personally in the future.

“Students need to be exposed to international diversity because we live in a global economy where there are multinational corporations, and people will be working for these firms someday,” he said. “The way we do things in the U.S. isn’t necessarily what they do in other countries.”

Werbel said the event is sponsored mainly through the Business College because “the Bacon Center likes to do forums on ethics and business, and we feel that Nike is an example of a company that has been caught dealing with ethics in different countries.”