Hong Seng Knitting
More than 3,330 workers at the Hong Seng Knitting factory in Thailand who sew university logo apparel for Nike have been subjected to abuse, wage theft and retaliation by factory management from May - October 2020. A report from the Worker Rights Consortium uncovered an illegal wage theft scheme that deprived workers of nearly $600,000 in legally mandated wages, an average of $172, or more than 15 days’ wages, per worker. Today, the amount owed to workers is more than $800,000 due to interest mandated by Thai law.
After the pandemic caused a drop in orders, factory management compelled workers to sign a form falsely stating that they wanted to take voluntary unpaid leave. This meant giving up their legally mandated partial wage while furloughed to support themselves and their families. There is overwhelming evidence that the leave was involuntary and that the scheme was illegal. Many workers have testified that they were pressured to sign the forms. The Thai government ruled that the forms do not constitute a lawful basis to deny workers their wages. When some workers resisted signing, management responded with threats of dismissal, other forms of retaliation and intimidation.
Kyaw San Oo, a Burmese migrant worker wrote to other workers on Facebook expressing concern about the wage theft. Factory management retaliated against him for standing up for his rights by reporting him to the police. Fearing unjust imprisonment in a country where police treatment of migrant workers is often arbitrary and brutal, San Oo was compelled to flee the country with his wife and infant son.
Nike continues to claim that workers volunteered chose to forgo wages, and has not provided an explanation as to why workers would make this choice. It remains Nike’s obligation, under its university licensing agreements, to ensure that its supplier’s violations of worker rights are addressed.