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Activists Urge Woods To Talk to Nike

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Activists holding a giant cutout of Nike's logo demonstrated inside a hotel where Tiger Woods was being honored, urging him to ask the company to improve working conditions in Thailand.

About two dozen labor union workers and students marched into the riverside Shangri-La hotel while Woods was in a ballroom receiving an honorary doctorate in sports science from a university.

Woods, whose mother is Thai, is a national hero in Thailand. He is in Bangkok for the Johnnie Walker Classic, a golf tournament that begins Thursday.

After the ceremony, the golf star walked past the protesters without speaking with them. The protesters, who remained peaceful, handed a letter to an aide.

The letter said the demonstration was on behalf of the 70,000 workers producing Nike footwear and clothing in Thailand in subcontracted factories.

``We appeal to you to use your influence as a respected athlete and as a benefactor of Nike's success to push for better working conditions,'' the letter said.

Woods has a $100 million, five-year endorsement deal with Nike, the sportswear manufacturing company headquartered in Beaverton, Ore.

The protesters held banners saying: ``Tiger Woods Stop Puttering.'' Another poster showed a man being pierced by the sharp end of the curved Nike logo. One protester wore a black hood and gown and held aloft a giant cutout of the logo in red.

The letter said Nike spends the equivalent of 14,000 workers' daily wage to pay Woods for one day.

``Even though Nike workers are earning the daily minimum wage, most of them end up working far more than eight hours a day'' as overtime to make ends meet, it said.

The letter also said workers often are not issued proper safety equipment and are injured on the job.

``The collection of protesters aren't familiar with our high standards for Nike factories around the world,'' Nike spokesman Vada Manager told The Associated Press.

He cited a September study, which the company helped finance, that said Nike workers in foreign factories feel safe and believe they are paid fairly though they want better health care and more training.

The survey by the Global Alliance for Workers Communities covered 3,800 Nike workers in Vietnam and Thailand — about 8 percent of the company's contract employees in the two countries.

Woods could also find himself caught in a political squabble when he plays at a course suspected to be owned by Thaksin Shinawatra, a top opposition politician, in violation of asset disclosure laws.

Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon who aspires to become prime minister, is under investigation. He is accused of buying the Alpine Golf and Sports Club without disclosing the purchase.

Thaksin's spokesman Suranan Vejjacheev has denied Thaksin owns the golf course, saying he is not cited as a shareholder in the company that owns the property. But Suranan acknowledged that the property is owned by shareholders of an affiliate of Shin Corp., the parent company of Thaksin's telecommunications business empire.

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