Nike Vows No More Child Labor

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They just did it. Nike today handed a major victory to labor activists by pledging improved labor conditions at its Third World factories and raising the minimum age of employees at its sports-shoe factories to 18. The minimum age at Nike apparel and accessories factories would be raised to 16. “Nike has been the poster child for U.S. corporate labor practices in the Third World,” says TIME business editor Bill Sapporito. The company’s employment practices have drawn incessant criticism, most recently in a series of exchanges with corporate-gadfly filmmaker Michael Moore. Nike accused Moore of biased editing in his Nike documentary, “The Big One,” and posted correctives on its web site; Moore responded by posting outtakes from his interview with Nike CEO Phil Knight on his own site.

Today’s Nike announcement, Sapporito believes, may signal a sea change in U.S. corporate labor practices abroad: “Labor activists have felt, quite accurately, that raising the tide at Nike may float all the other boats too.” After all, they can.