If you’ve read my book WHERE AM I WEARING? you remember Jim Keady. He spent a month in Indonesia living with the workers at a Nike factory. That was in 1997. To this day, Jim still travels back to Indonesia. Recently he was deported from Indonesia for joining a labor rally. He stands with workers and through his work with Team Sweat educates high school and college students about global workers’ rights.
Jim stands for what he believes in. He does not sit down, nor does he shut up.
Yesterday Jim attended a press conference in which Governor Chris Christie was talking about the progress that had been made in Jim’s childhood neighborhood since Hurricane Sandy hit two years ago. Jim held up a sign that read: “Get Sandy Families Back in Their Homes / Finish the Job.”
In the wake of the hurricane, I remember following Jim’s efforts. Someone needed help with the disaster that was their homes and Jim would show up with a crew of volunteers. Eventually the city gave him his own dump truck to drive around and help people recover what they could of their possessions and discard what was unsalvageable. He took off an entire month and did this.
When Christie took to the mic, Jim held up his sign and began to ask him why only 20% of the $1.1 Billion set aside for families impacted by Sandy had been spent. Jim didn’t have a mic, but he had a voice. He kept talking. And eventually Christie shouted him down:
(From Bloomberg)…“somebody like you doesn’t know a damn thing about what you’re talking about except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here. I’ve been here when the cameras aren’t here buddy, and done the work.” Christie went on to tell Keady that “I’m glad you had your day to show off” and now, “turn around, get your 15 minutes of fame, and then maybe take your jacket off, roll up your sleeves and do something for the people of this state.”
There is a time to vote. There is a time to sit and listen. But there is also a time to stand and speak. (My thoughts on Standing Up here). Jim stood.
I honestly don’t know the intricacies of the Sandy recovery efforts, but I do know one thing: Chris Christie told the wrong guy to sit down and shut up.
Here’s Jim speaking out on MSNBC:
Below you can read what I wrote about Jim in WHERE AM I WEARING
In 1997, Jim was a graduate assistant soccer coach at St. John’s University studying theology. For one of his classes, a professor asked him to do a project on theology and sports. He chose to look into Nike’s labor practices in developing countries. At the same time he began his research, St. John’s University, the largest Catholic University in the United States, was about to sign a multimillion-dollar contract committing their coaches and players to wearing nothing but Nike shoes, clothes, and gear. Jim, who refused to wear any Nike products, received an ultimatum: “Wear Nike or you’re out.” Jim’s career as a soccer coach came to an end, and his life as a labor activist began.
Along with labor rights activist Lisa Kretzu, Jim traveled to Indonesia where he lived on the daily budget of the local Nike workers, $1.25 per day, for an entire month. They lost a combined 40 pounds and, as Jim wrote in an article for Doctors of Global Health. He described how “they lived “in a 9′ × 9′ cement box, with…two thin mats to sleep on … in a neighborhood lined with putrid open sewers, riddled with piles of burning garbage, and pollution you could cut through.” The experience left them even more impassioned to raise awareness about the workers, writing, “they are fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters. We will strive to give them a voice, to let the world know that they are suffering and in need of justice.”