Business, Finance & Economics

The Nike or Adidas sneakers you're wearing may be made by Chinese workers who have gone on strike

Strike.jpg

Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

Workers protest during a strike as police stand guard at a crossroads near the factory area of Yue Yuen Industrial, in Dongguan, Guangdong province on April 18, 2014.

A walkout at a factory in China may affect your next sneaker purchase. Workers at the Yue Yuen factory in Dongguan, China, are on strike.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

You've certainly never heard of Yue Yuen shoes. That's because there's no such thing.

But Nike and Adidas have a lot of their shoes made by Yue Yuen. And you've almost certainly heard of those brands.

The Chinese company is reportedly the largest manufacturer of athletic shoes in the world. And that means the two-week-old work stoppage in Dongguan could limit shoe supply down the road.

Kevin Slaten is with China Labor Watch, a New York-based group that's keeping an eye on the strike.

The organization has been in touch with workers at the factory, including those close to the negotiations and even some people in managment. But Slaten says there's no de facto leader among the strikers — at least not anyone willing to speak publicly to represent the group.

Workers have been cautious about naming names for fear of being arrested, harassed or fired, he says.

And yet, despite the strike, Slaten says he's heartened to see workers become more aware of their rights. For example, Slaten says demands like "social insurance back pay" is something many workers didn't know about even just a few years ago.

"Factories and the government are going to have to be more aware of worker's rights and what they're demanding and have to meet those demands," he says.

Otherwise, the strikes will continue.

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