Every decade, it seems that a new social issue captures the attention of Catholic progressives, inspiring efforts to work for a more just society. In the late 1950s and early 1960s it was civil rights. In the ’80s it was nuclear arms.
In the 1990s, that issue was sweatshops. As new technologies increased international communication, people began hearing firsthand accounts of labor rights abuses that never made it into the mainstream news space. Many companies were shown to use sweatshops. But one company rose to the forefront of the debate: Nike. As a brand, it evoked the best in American culture: commitment, achievement, competitiveness, cool and a sense of fair play. But as tales of its rights abuses spread, Nike became a cultural symbol of everything that was wrong with capitalism and globalization.