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These Companies Support ‘Black Lives Matter’ But Sent Their Jobs To China

(STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Corporate America’s response to the growing “Black Lives Matter” movement included pledges to increase diversity in the workplace, financially support civil rights groups and change company policies.

Many of these corporations have also outsourced manufacturing to contractors in China, even though these practices disproportionately hurt black workers, as a study from researchers the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concluded.

Here are some of the companies that endorse “Black Lives Matter” but outsource their jobs to China.

Apple

“To the Black community — we see you. You matter and your lives matter,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook wrote in an open letter published June 4 on the company’s website. The company also announced June 11 it would be donating $100 million to a racial equity and justice initiative focusing on education, economic equality and criminal justice reform, CNET reported.

The company’s music and video streaming service, Apple Music, tweeted June 1 that the platform supported “Black artists, Black creators, and Black communities,” and included the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag.

Concurrently, Apple has taken advantage of nearly $600 million worth of perks, tax breaks and subsidies in order to construct the so-called “iPhone City” in Zhengzhou, China, according to The New York Times. Owned and operated by manufacturing partner Foxconn, factories in Zhengzhou reportedly produced up to 500,000 iPhones a day.

The factory complex employs as many as 350,000 people and is the largest electronics factory in the world, producing roughly half of the world’s iPhones. Workers, typically between 18 and 25 years old, are housed in 12-story buildings that function as dormitories, work six days a week, rarely see their families and have few safety standards, Business Insider reported.

At the Foxconn-owned Longhua plant in Shenzhen, China, assembly-line workers began killing themselves, the Guardian reported. “It’s not a good place for human beings,” a worker named Xu told the Guardian.

Nike

“We know Black Lives Matter. We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates,” said Nike chief executive John Donahoe in a statement June 5.

Nike also said its affiliate brands would commit $40 million over four years to “support the Black community in the U.S.” The money is slated to go to civil rights organizations and groups that promote social justice, according to The Hill.

At the same time, Nike has spent years outsourcing its manufacturing operations to places like China. Nike’s supplier factories across Asia have been cutting wages even as their share of production costs decreases, Reuters reported. In some cases, worker wages were 30% lower than the rate in the 1990s.

As China’s standard of living has increased, Nike has been eyeing new suppliers in countries like Indonesia and Cambodia, according to Newsweek. The trade dispute between the U.S. and China has reportedly accelerated Nike’s plans to outsource even further to cheaper Asian countries.

One of Nike’s suppliers, China-based Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co., came under fire after it was reported earlier this year that ethnic Uighur Muslims from the Xinjiang region were producing components of Nike’s signature Air Max at forced labor camps, according to The Washington Post.

Walmart

In an open letter published June 12 by Walmart chief executive Doug McMillin, he wrote that the company’s goal was to “help replace the structures of systemic racism, and build in their place frameworks of equity and justice that solidify our commitment to the belief that, without question, Black Lives Matter.”

The retailer also announced this week it would stop selling merchandise with the words “All Lives Matter.” Walmart also tweeted June 5 that the company would be committing $100 million over five years to racial equality. (RELATED: Walmart Announces New Social Distancing Events For Families Across America)

Walmart, however, has displaced more than 400,000 American jobs between 2001 and 2013 by sourcing products from China, according to a study published in The New York Times. China has been so important to Walmart’s supply chain that the company moved its global sourcing headquarters to Shenzhen, China in 2002, The Atlantic reported.

Walmart has at least 10,000 suppliers in China which produce the vast majority of the products sold by the company, according to The American Prospect. Like other companies that outsource manufacturing to China, Walmart has kept its labor costs low by keeping wages low for Chinese workers and increasing overtime requirements, The American Prospect added.

Adidas

“It’s time to own up to our silence: Black Lives Matter,” Adidas said in a series of tweets published June 10. The company also said it would tackle hiring bias by filling half of its open positions with people of “diverse talent,” and filling 30% of its open positions with black and Latino people.

Adidas also committed $120 million over the next four years to sustainability initiatives and financing 50 scholarships a year for black students.

Like its competitors, Adidas has outsourced manufacturing jobs to China for years. During a 2018 shareholder meeting, Adidas chief executive Kasper Rørsted said more than half of its footwear was produced in China and Vietnam, Reuters reported.

Along with Nike, however, Adidas has also cut the wages of workers in the company’s Asian subsidiaries, with average salaries estimated to be 45 to 65% below what is needed to provide basic needs, as reported by Reuters. The company is also considering automating these jobs at their German plant in Ansbach, according to Industry Week.

Puma

“BLACK LIVES MATTER. We want to make our position very clear—we do not tolerate racism, bigotry, or police brutality,” Puma said in a statement May 30. The company also said it would be supporting organizations such as REFORM Alliance and the ACLU and its website includes links to various social justice groups.

Puma also announced in a tweet May 30 that it would be donating to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a group that pays bail for people awaiting trials. (RELATED: Minnesota Freedom Fund Slammed After Revealing Less Than 1% Of Donations Have Been Used To Bail People Out Of Jail)

Puma’s Global Operations department reported in 2015 that around a quarter of the company’s manufacturing was based in China, with Asian suppliers constituting well over three-quarters of the company’s manufacturing. Puma currently has 47 suppliers in China, with most of them located near the tech hubs Guangzhou and Shenzhen, according to Puma’s website.

Sony

“Right now, we want to use our platform to spread information & support,” Sony stated in a tweet May 31. The company also promised to donate $1 million to “Black Lives Matter” organizations, according to Tech Times.

Concurrently, Sony has outsourced manufacturing to China for nearly two decades, and since 2005 the company has manufactured smartphones and gaming systems in factories operated by Chinese contractors.

Although Sony closed its own Chinese plants in 2019, production would continue to be outsourced to contract manufacturers, Reuters reported.