Citing Nike’s low wages for foreign workers, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday asked President Obama to cancel a planned meeting on Friday with executives of the athletic shoe maker at its headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
Nike has taken advantage of free-trade agreements – similar to proposed new pact which Obama is touting – to offshore tens of thousands of American jobs to Vietnam and other low-wage countries.
“Nike epitomizes why disastrous unfettered free-trade policies during the past four decades have failed American workers, eroded our manufacturing base and increased income and wealth inequality in this country,” Sanders wrote in a letter he sent to the president Wednesday.
As part of a campaign on Capitol Hill for a proposed 12-nation trade agreement, the Obama administration has been traveling the country talking about the pact’s supposed benefits.
Sanders and other opponents of the deal have argued that previous trade agreements cost millions of American jobs and widened the United States’ trade deficit – a pattern likely to be repeated if the largest ever trade deal is approved by Congress.
“It is no secret why Nike is supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This would increase the profits of Nike … but do nothing to encourage Nike to create one manufacturing job in this country. It would simply make Nike more money and increase the compensation packages of its executives,” Sanders wrote.
Since 2001, the U.S. has lost 60,000 factories. When Nike was founded in 1964, just 4 percent of footwear sold in the United States was imported. Today, that number has soared to 98 percent and Nike, like many other shoe companies, produces all of its products overseas.
Sanders said Congress should reject the free-trade agreement and instead develop policies that promote jobs in the United States.