Public Policy Proposal on Indonesian Sweatshop Workers

Who are they?

In Indonesia, sweatshop workers work in appalling conditions and are not allowed to voice their opinion. So, we are producing a public policy to try and help this cause. We will call this policy, “Project Help”. This idea was drafted by Empower and Help ambassador Abhineet Wadhwa. Project Help will basically prevent Nike from underpaying their workers. What we are trying to do is prevent fatalities in sweatshops and increase pay. There is no air conditioning and the buildings look very unstable (TeamSweat).

Public Policy:

Before jumping into the specifics of it, here’s a quick little summary of our mission. The main idea of Project Help is to help underpaid workers in Indonesia by making Nike sign a contract in which they agree to improve the pay of the workers. Part of Project Help is to visit Indonesia and see what is happening first-hand. Next, we need to get Nike on board with this. They can discuss this issue and talk about how these workers live and work in  horrible conditions, and are under compensated. They can show what they have done to help improve life for workers, like raise pay, improve working conditions, provide healthcare benefits, etc. 


Living conditions:

Not only are the working conditions deplorable, but the living conditions are also horrible. Workers live in tiny boxes and sleep on the floor (TeamSweat). Since we cannot  help all sweatshop workers, we will tackle this problem 1 by 1, starting with sweatshop workers in Indonesia. The reason we are starting with Indonesia is that prime companies like Nike make their clothing there. Imagine the possibilities if Nike gets on board with Project Help . Why would they want to do this? By decreasing the high amounts of workplace fatalities and improving the condition of their workplace, more people will be able to come home to their families (“Nike Sweatshops”).


Economic Benefits:

Increasing the number of safe workers can also boost  the economy. Around 3 trillion dollars are lost each year due to workplace fatalities (Buehler). A logical assumption that can be made is if we improve working conditions, there will be fewer workplace fatalities, and since fatalities cause 3 trillion dollars worth of loss, if we take preventative measures to improve the fatality rate, then the economy improves. 

In their shoes:

The economy is not the only thing that needs highlighting. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of these sweatshop workers. For example, you get up in the morning and put on the same pair of clothes. After using the bathroom and putting on your shoes, you step outside of your tiny box home and look down; you see waste flowing through and gag. This is your daily morning routine. A hypothetical scenario that could be made from the low wages is that they don’t make enough to get clean water to drink or shower or to afford things like doctor’s visits, get proper plumbing, etc. This needs to improve, as this makes for an unsustainable environment for the people. So, how are we going to do this?


What’s in it for Nike?

 The biggest thing we have on our side is that this can be a great marketing technique for them. They can name-call companies like Puma, Adidas, etc., and say they don’t do it. This will result in more sales for them and more profit. It’s a win-win and can get other companies to start doing the same.


Social Status: 

 Due to Nike’s huge social status, they might not be willing to try and implement this policy. They are a top company and are making a lot of money, and they might not like the idea of having to invest in the workers. In the article “Health Risks, Low Pay Affecting Fast-Food Workers’ Appetites for Jobs”, they talk about how workers are getting paid less because of COVID. In a similar way, Nike is underpaying these workers, but for the reason of turning a profit on the account of sweatshop workers. If they paid workers more, logically the amount they make would go down, and they have a lot of workers. For example, in our daily lives, we may be hesitant to spend money on unnecessary things like more expensive groceries or eating out, and this is how Nike may also view raising wages. In the video “Nike Sweatshops, Behind The Swoosh,” Jim Keady tries talking to the owner of Nike in a restaurant, and the owner brushes him off and completely ignores his point, telling him to leave. This scenario makes it clear that getting in touch with Nike on this topic is difficult.


Employment/Working conditions:

A huge concern is that Nike may not improve the conditions enough or follow through with the policy. If they do agree, they may only uphold this policy for however long it makes them money.If you look at the Image above, after the 2008 election, the search for the word election went down, because it wasn’t trending. That is a significant determinant. If we try to get them to sign a contract, that will encourage change. Media trends are a part of this. This sweatshop news may be in the media for a couple of months; then it will die down. A logical assumption that can be made is that Nike will start making less money off of this, and will eventually want to discontinue this.

Common implementation challenges:

Geographic Limitations and Cultural/ Social issues:

The pandemic has put several limitations on travel to different countries. Take, for example, India. There is no travel allowed to and from India because of COVID-19 and the multiple variants circulating. If there is a surge of COVID-19 cases or a new variant that comes out in Indonesia and there is no travel to and from it, this may cause delays in policy implementation. 

Characteristics of success:

A strong partnership is a major characteristic of success. It is highly unlikely , but possible that people will casually be able to reach out to Nike about this topic and receive a response.In Jim Keady Speaks out Against Nike, the text talks about how he was “thwarted” by Nike higher ups and as mentioned earlier, the former CEO, Phil Knight.  There will have to be a lot of strong partnerships and connections to be able to reach out to Nike and talk to them about this proposal. Secondly, there are identifying challenges. To create a policy, it would be better to go in person and examine everything to see the situation for ourselves. That way, we will be able to identify the challenges and revise our policy in such a way that we think it is good enough after seeing everything in Indonesia. 

Wrapping it up:

In conclusion, sweatshop workers are being treated in inhumane ways and need to be recognized and served justice. You can help by raising awareness of the cause. Tell people about it in discussions. Peaceful protests. Tiny things can be useful; these people need our help.



Team Sweat,”Nike Sweatshops, behind the swoosh” 28 July 2011, https:// uCWV fuQ

“Characteristics of Successful Programs.” Characteristics of Successful Programs, 14 Sept. 2017,

“Common Implementation Challenges” 14 September, 2017,

“Nike Sweatshops: The Truth about the NIKE Factory Scandal.” New Idea, 11 Dec. 2019,

Buehler, Michael ”More than 2 million people die at work each year. Here’s how to prevent it.” 23 March, 2019                                                                            

Nguyen,Janet,”Health risks, low pay affecting fast-food workers’ appetite for jobs” Marketplace 29 April, 2021

Vlahoyiannis, Corinna “Jim Keady Speaks out Against Nike”, 4 April, 2017 The Villanovan 


Image source: 

[By Abhineet Wadhwa, is Empower And Help Student Ambassador 2021 from Illinois]

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