More than 40 people gathered in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday to protest President Clinton's actions in Chile.
The protesters, part of an international mobilization of people opposed to the inhumane treatment of factory workers, timed their actions to coincide with the opening of the Summit of the Americas.The purpose of the rally, said DeNorris Bradley of Hands Across Borders, was to end the operation of sweatshops throughout the world. Free-trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement that President Clinton hopes to expand while in Chile, encourage sweatshops and should be eliminated, he said.
A primary target of the rally was Nike, which foes say operates sweatshops throughout the world. During his rally speech, Bradley said that Nike factories in Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Pakistan force workers to average long hours in brutal conditions while paying less than the minimum cost of living for those countries. Additionally, he said that many of the factories use child labor and often have complaints of physical and sexual abuse logged against the factory bosses.
"We are targeting sweatshops throughout the world," Bradley said.
Throughout the rally, signs bearing anti-Nike messages such as "Don't Do It" and "Don't Be a Label Whore" bobbed up and down to the rhythm of rallying chants against the shoe company.
"If (factory workers) can't put pressure on their countries to stop the inhumane treatment, we need to do something about it here," said Bill Tibbitts in between cries of "Shame on Nike, shame!"
Other protesters took a more passionate approach, pointing out that the protest was part of the basic human struggle for dignity, which they say the sweatshops often ruin.
"I'm interested in humanity," said Lance Cole, who read a number of poems to the crowd, "and this movement towards corporate control is robbing everyone of their humanity."
Although nobody disputed the boycott of Nike, all of the speakers stressed that Nike is only an example.
"Remember why we are doing the boycott," said Brin Bon, who spoke for Justice, Economic Independence and Dignity (JEDI) for Women. "We are not just doing it to boycott Nike but to help improve the lives of people everywhere."