Nowadays, argues No Sweat, leisure and sport are big business, less about health and more about wearing the right labels. The Commonwealth Games, in Manchester from 25 July until 4 August, will be an ideal showcase for the corporate sports label industry. While thousands will be watching from the stadia, and perhaps millions on their televisions, the sportswear multinationals will be raking it in.
In the process they will be exploiting hundreds of thousands of workers across the world. Nike, Reebok and Adidas all use factories in the Third World to produce goods at a fraction of the price they sell them for in the West. Shirts and shoes are produced cheaply by paying pathetic wages to garment workers who must put up with terrible conditions, often in factories where union activity is banned.
Some of the Games' sponsors have a dreadful record of labour practices, engaging in union-busting, casualisation, private take-over of state utilities and more. They range from multinationals such as Microsoft and Wal-Mart (owners of Asda) to firms like solicitors Addleshaw Booth, who give advice to employers on how to get round union recognition legislation.
The biggest sportswear manufacturers are also some of the worst sweatshop exploiters. The corporate takeover of sport ties athletes to the sportswear giants, who then use their images to advertise clothes made for a pittance in sweatshops on one side of the world for sale at huge prices in megastores on this side of the world.
For example, Reebok supplies kit to the GB athletics teams. China Labor Watch, in January this year, found Reebok factories with low wages, overtime violations, high temperatures and toxic fumes. They found an average 86 hours a month forced overtime.
The Games' own code of conduct doesn't contain any standards on workers' rights. Official Games merchandise bears no indication of where it was produced or by whom.
During the Commonwealth Games, the No Sweat campaign will be pushing their message, concentrating on the demands for union rights, living wages and decent conditions for all sweatshop workers by holding a stall in city centre most Saturdays leading up to the Games. During the Games, there will be various activities including a carnival and public meetings, hopefully with athletes in attendance (check the Events Listing or Stop Press area for new details).
No Sweat (07951 741640, email@example.com)
Also see Sporting and Fair for All?