By request, this Shame Day is going to be a triple-feature, with three of the most insidious corporations out there out in the stocks. Now I’m currently boycotting all three of these companies (and have been for some time) and made banning them from campus the priority of my college activism. That’s all just to say that I’ve had a long time to build and hone my venomous rage and hatred of both these companies, so buckle up- this is going to be vicious one.
Let’s start with Nike.
Even the mildest of the companies many, many offenses is still pretty vile. Take a look at this ad Nike ran back in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics:
That’s “A Dream Deferred”, by iconic African-American poet Langston Hughes. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from watching the commercial, as Hughes isn’t credited. That poem, by the way, was published in 1951, and refers to the rage and agony of black life under the injustice of segregation and bigotry.
And Nike’s taken that beautiful message of frustration and decided to use it to hawk their shoes. Of course, if that were the greatest of Nike’s sins, they’d be fine; see, the Nike corporation has trouble with a little problem called “sweatshops”.
You know sweatshops. Dangerous conditions, massive hours, abusive and violent supervisors, just enough pay to keep you alive for the next work day.
Nike was first busted for it’s rampant use of sweatshops back in the 90s. Knowledge of sweatshop labor was relatively new at the time, and the then-soccer coach of St. John’s University, Jim Keady (who deserves his own Fame Day) spearheaded research into the company’s labor practices as his college signed a multimillion dollar deal with Nike. Discovering Nike’s atrocious and long-standing use of sweatshops, Keady was forced to resign from his position in 1998 after staunchly refusing to endorse the company. In spite of this, Keady’s actions forced Nike into the spotlight, and under a wave of condemnation, the company promised to straighten out their factories in the following couple of years.
Which was why a lot of people were surprised when in 2001, the BBC documented more sweatshops in Cambodia, utilizing children who were being worked 16 hours a day.
Again, Nike sheepishly swore to get it’s act together, and three years later had constructed an auditing team to help the company “self-regulate”. You might be thinking, “Gordon, Nike expects people to trust its own reports? That’s ****ing stupid!” Nevertheless, Nike did give most of its factories a “B” average…
…And was caught again in 2011 for operating over two-thirds of it’s factories in sweatshop conditions.
Yep. Not only are sweatshops still being used by Nike on a massive scale (with beatings and rape frequently used to control the largely female workforce), but according to Jim Keady, who has continued to investigate Nike, the company isn’t even living up to it’s proudly-touted environmental record. Surprise, surprise.
Oh, and can I bring up the fact that their factories in Thailand have been found to be dangerously carcinogenic? Not only was that found by Nike’s own researchers, but one of the researchers I contacted in 2012 offered confirmation of the dangerous conditions of these factories.
And yet Nike continues to protest it’s innocence after repeatedly being called out as the exploitative, lying sleazebags they are.
But let’s move on. You know who else is a festering pile of human garbage?
Kat’s already touched on the evils of bottled water in one of her own Shame Days. She summarizes the problem pretty nicely, and you oughta go read it. For our purposes here, all you need to know is that Coke is one of the world’s most major distributors of bottled water, even at the expense of local communities, such as the province of Kerala, in India. Coke’s bottling plants there have been accused (as is common with bottling plants all around the world) of using so much of the local supply as to create a shortage of the farming communities there.
A further blemish upon the company’s environmental record has been their direct attempts to overturn recycling regulations in Australia. Using a container deposit system, Australia has been very effective at combating littering (especially of environmentally hazardous plastic bottles). Essentially, a few cents is added to the initial price of the products, which can be gotten back upon recycling the can/bottle/box in question. The program has seen 80% of all bottles purchased recycled since its inception.
Pretty cool idea, right?
Not to Coke.
See, this multi-billion dollar company is afraid that the marginal increase in cost getting added on by this program is going to hurt its sales, because, y’know, Coke is just a tiny start-up company and every sale counts.
This is some miserly greed of Scrooge proportions, but even it pales in comparison to the rest of the laundry list of Coke’s misdeeds.
Let’s talk about how in Guatemala and Colombia since the 80s, attempts to unionize Coca-Cola’s sweatshop-style bottling plants have been repeatedly sabotaged.
And by sabotaged, I mean “Union leaders have been repeatedly kidnapped and murdered, and countless union workers have been intimidated and beaten by paramilitary thugs.”
Now you might be saying “Ok- hold the phone, Gordon. Maybe that’s just a coincidence… that 16 major union workers of Coke have been slaughtered over the years.”
You know what? Maybe it’s true.
I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time that a company has employed murderers in South American to keep their profits, heck, the term “banana republic” originates from the United Fruit Company (now rebranded as “Chiquita”) funding right-wing groups to ensure the security of their holdings. But yeah, maybe Coke is simply aware of what happens to their employees and, y’know, just doesn’t give a ****. Could they use a fraction of their profits to pay those workers a fair wage, or give them safe working conditions? Sure- but when the local death-squads are conveniently keeping wages low and profits high, why question a good thing?
Kinda like their employment of child labor in El Salvador and the Philippines. So long as they’re getting cheap sugar, who cares if little Emilio’s tired little arms accidentally machete off his own leg because he’s been working in the cane fields for 14 hours?
But you know what’s really sad? For all their many, many transgressions, Coca-Cola isn’t even the worst offender on the docket today.
No, that’d be Nestle.
Where to even start with Nestle?
How about with their most famous offense: their infamous baby formula, specifically how they market it as being better than breast milk.
Nestle’s been hounded by children’s and women’s advocacy groups about this issue since the late 70s, and while the company has “caved” and set forth an official statement admitting that breastfeeding is infinitely superior to their formula that hasn’t kept them from pulling some especially dirty tricks. Like offering “free samples” to new mothers in maternity wards. Often in poor and third world countries, these uneducated mothers use Nestle’s baby formula, unaware that not breastfeeding their children disrupts the lactation cycle, forcing them to keep using formula with their children. And of course, as soon as they’re out of the hospital, that same formula is no longer free. Poor women are forced to cut the formula with water to make it last longer, even though this is devastating to the baby- as if it weren’t bad enough that they’re already missing out on vital hormones, nutrients, and antibodies. Infants often die from a lack of proper nutrition, but where’s Nestle? They’re off packing aid boxes full of their baby formula, turning every humanitarian and rescue effort into another opportunity to force unwitting women and their babies into becoming dependent customers.
But it’s not like Nestle’s not used to making deals with the devil. After all, they violated international law just to get cheap milk from farms run by Grace Mugabe, wife of the corrupt and iron-fisted Zimbabwean autocrat, Robert Mugabe. Maybe you or I would be a bit hesitant to jump into bed with some decadent despot because of little things like “morality” and “basic human decency”, but Nestle’s a lot like the honey badger:
I could bring up Nestle’s rampant destruction of Borneo’s rainforest to cheaply obtain palm oil for their products, but Nestle has set up it’s own trust to monitor its activities. And what have the people at Nestle ever done that’d make us question their integrity?
Well, there’s the slavery.
There’s been accusations hurled at major chocolate companies, Nestle included, since ’98 regarding rampant use of child slaves (not slave-conditions, slaves), largely in the coca farms of West Africa. Recent years have produced more and more undeniable evidence- 2001 seeing Nestle at last sign an agreement to cease it’s involvement in the use of child slaves in coca farming. In 2012, the Fair Labor Association’s investigation of Nestle revealed that the corporation had willfully failed to take any action, and continued to profiteer off of the enslavement of Malian and Ivorian children.
The CEOs, the board, the people who own and run this company- they know. They are wholly aware that they contract with slavers, and yet they do nothing about it.
How does that make them any different from the plantation owners of antebellum America- other than those plantation owners were raised to believe in slavery? These are children who are stolen from their families. Who are beaten and maimed. Who are tortured and starved and worked to their deaths-
So that the CEO of Nestle can collect $10,000,000 a year. So he can smugly lecture about economics from a grandiose auditorium in the Swiss Alps. So he can spew that “water is not a human right.”
These sneering, subhuman swine make fortunes off of the agony and misery of thousands and they’re getting away with it. And they’re probably going to get away with every day until whatever toxic sludge they have in place of hearts finally gives out.
But not without a fight.
No Nestle, no Nike, no Coke.
Boycott, people- if for nothing else than to say with pride that these soulless scum didn’t get one ****ing penny from you. That the only thing these subhuman swine ever got in their wretched, cancerous lives from anyone with sense of right and wrong was this: righteous, undiluted rage and unwavering, unfettered contempt.
Applause! Applause! This is by far my favorite CWR post in a while. The sarcasm was biting! The gifs were fitting! Gordon, I am very glad you wrote this post.
All my CWR fanboy gushing aside this is a very good post. You were informative and funny without being too heavy handed. I am constantly frustrated by the level of ignorance within my circle of acquaintances and co-workers when it comes to any level of consumer responsibility. I mean, there’s really not more I can say than that. People are ignorant and that makes me mad.
Just a thought: part of what I appreciated about this post was how even your tone was the whole time. The only exception was your use of the term “sneering, subhuman swine.” People have pointed out in the past that the information in your writing can get drowned out by your vitriol and anger. The people who commit these crimes are still people. People who choose to do bad things or refuse to do good things, but still people.
See, I think I have to disagree there. “Bad things” really doesn’t seem to cut it here, y’know? This, again, is slavery. There is no excuse, no justification that any of these people can offer, and I don’t feel that I could hurl any condemnation or insult that wouldn’t be justified.
I think you misunderstand me. I’m not diminishing the pure evil committed by these corporations. I’m simply saying that you dilute your point when you start throwing insults. You don’t have to call these people subhuman swine, you just have to present the facts and we’ll come to that conclusion on our own. I mean, show don’t tell, if you will. Am I supposed to leave this post thinking “Gordon is angry at Coca-Cola” or am I supposed to leave the post thinking “I now know Nestle chocolate is slave chocolate. Now I’m angry and boycotting.” Name calling isn’t great for education or dialogue.
It by no means ruins the post, though. Seriously, I loved the post. It’s just a trend in your posts that people have commented on in the past and I thought I’d mention as well.
Reason I do it is because I feel that too often in more calm pieces the reaction is “well that’s just terrible” as opposed to “**** those guys”. I wanna be sure to generate wrath at the individual monsters, not disappointment at the problem on the whole, y’know?
I can certainly see your point. I guess where I really thought you got the bile up was more with your sarcasm and subtleties than with your insults. I mean, the second your had that line break to “Well, there’s the slavery” was the moment I really felt the “eff these mother-effing effers!” Pardon my lame fake swears.
True, but you’re also well aware of the situation with these guys and with capitalism in general. I don’t know that someone will less exposure would react the same way.
I think as with many things in our friendship we may just have to agree to disagree.
Slavery, real slavery like this, is pretty universally vilified. Had it just been wage slavery or one of the lesser publicly discussed Capitalist evils I would agree with you. But I still think that if people are so callous as to not react with rage when confronted with slavery or marketing that leads to dead babies then a few insults aren’t going to change their mind.
I wouldn’t say “callous” is the right term, so much as “used to it”. Corporate villainy is normalized in our society- I think some howls of rabid outrage will affect people who have been conditioned to think of it all as an unfortunate part of life, rather than the heinous and disgusting crime that it is.
Again I think we must just agree to disagree. You have good reasons behind your writing choices, they just aren’t reasons I would subscribe to myself. I would prefer people have an informed anger. You may be right that rage and name calling will shake up a numb consumerist society. In the end I can’t prove our points either way.
Fantastic post. I’m pretty sure I already boycott all these things… and bananas (unless they are dumpster dived). What would be really nice, however, is to remind us of the many different sneaky forms these companies appear. I think a lot of people don’t even realize when they are or are not making a nestle purchase, for instance.
I’d also like more info on the rapes taking place in sweatshops. Not that I doubt it, but because I like to see a paper trail throughout the articles. Maybe there was info in one of the other articles you like to? I haven’t read all the links yet, I just noticed the section on rape wasn’t highlighted.
This sounds like they took a page from Leopold’s Congo. But that was over a 100 years ago, so our world has hardly progressed much. Evil takes different forms and learns to disguise itself, but it still gets the job done.
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good good good
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Love this post, especially the use of GIFs. My kids have been harassing me for years over my boycotts, which they think do so very little. But one of the things a short-term boycott alters is loyalty to a brand, and the ability to articulate that reasoning to a larger audience. It would be terrific if you posted a link to ALL of the Coke/Nestle products out there, so people, lazy as we are, can read it and start now. Thanks for the entertainment with my activism.
It’s a pretty massive list for any one of these companies, much less all three. I’d probably recommend that folks just check out their Wikipedia pages, which I believe detail each and every subsidiary they own.
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