OBB Training at Ebenezer Church

Atlanta, GA – “Our first two weeks here at OBB have been a whirlwind – a hectic, beautiful, inspiring whirlwind. During our first week we rallied with ballpark workers at National Stadium; took a trip to Philadelphia to support the teachers and Student Safety Staff fasting to protest public school layoffs; and began to get accustomed to our different assignments. We capped off our second week with a trip to Atlanta to visit our brothers and sisters down there who are also members of Local 23. On the first day we got to hang out with other workers and organizers from Atlanta and helped them out with some organizing they have been working on.

The next day we went to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in downtown Atlanta. Walking around the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and King’s childhood home a few blocks away, we were in awe. King’s powerful presence still seemed to reverberate throughout the places he once occupied. Although I had heard the story of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement before, being in Atlanta and being aware of myself as an organizer, the story took on a new meaning. King’s resilience in the face of immense odds and death threats, in addition to his steadfast philosophy of nonviolence and his refusal to stoop to the base level of his adversaries, left me feeling inspired.

Another highlight was the “I Am Somebody” training, which focused on race and privilege. It allowed our diverse group an opportunity to share experiences about how race and racism has shaped or affected our own lives. It was very revealing to see how society, because of institutionalized racism, has placed people at different starting points and situations in life. This training was very important because race is so seldom discussed in a conscious or intentional way in our society. But as organizers, who believe in equality and justice, it is something we must be aware of. We used our discussion of race to jump into a discussion about what kind of union we want UNITE HERE to be and how we should act on our principals. I left the room feeling more aware and more connected to everyone else who I had undergone the experience with.”

– Stephen, Summer Organizer, DC Local 23

Cosmo Rally Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV – “I have to say that this has been such a unique experience for me, as an MGM Resorts International employee. Attending the MGM contract negotiations was a great experience for all of us on our very first day.

I feel we have all gained great knowledge. The research interns, being able to see things from the workers’ perspective, and myself seeing a completely different realm of our Union that frankly, I was not aware existed. That’s something that I will now be able to share with my fellow union members. We have been involved in so much…we went on delegations to companies that patronize the Station Casinos, leafleted the American Eagle store for not signing on to the safety accord, helped the internal organizers turn out people for the rally that took place June 14 outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. The rally would have to be one of my favorite actions. It was just amazing to see thousands of people showing up with their red shirts, all there to support each other. The interns had the opportunity to work with organizers from various properties to turn out people to this major event for our local. We accompanied some organizers to visit Cosmopolitan and Station casino workers’ in their homes. Chris was our camera man for the night, capturing great footage of this event; while Adan and I led chants until our voices went out. The feeling of that evening is just inexplicable, completely inspiring! Can you imagine watching the crowd grow bigger and bigger to the point where our leaders had to find a way to end our action early because we had TOO many people?”

– Laura, Summer Boycott Organizer, Las Vegas

 

“Eat the Street” Food Truck Rally in Hawaii

Honolulu, HI – The OBB team hit the streets of Kaka’ako during the “Eat the Street” food truck rally with their guerilla theater skit, entitled “Trouble in Paradise”. The skit received rave reviews and encountered run-ins with the event staff and local police. The skit sought to educate and engage the public through the portrayal of the current condo conversion crisis, which threatens local union jobs and drains valuable resources out of our state.

“On July 17, the OBB crew participated in two exciting actions. Starting at the delegate convention of Local 5 membership, we encircled Kaiser’s corporate office to demonstrate our disappointment in their attempts to bully employees and cut their pension plans and the negative impact on patient care in our communities, while they increase their profit. Then the OBBs met our Aikea community members and Local 5 members at the historic Ilikai Hotel. The OBBs were part of staging the largest rally Local 5 has done in years. After leading chants they developed and performing their skit, “trouble in paradise”  the OBBs finally ended the day at a festive dinner with the delegates, shop stewards, and organizers of Local 5.”

– Kimiko, Summer Organizer, Hawaii

 

Rally at Seattle Pride Parade

Seattle, WA – “ Pride was an awesome opportunity to connect the LGBTQ community and labor movement, as well as show Seattle about our fight for justice at the Space Needle! Everyone liked our float and hopefully will be ready to fight with us for dignity and equality in Seattle!”

– Megan, Summer Organizer, Seattle

“This year was my first time attending Pride. Watching people, if even just for one day, being accepting of each other unconditionally was a powerful thing. It made me see how the world could be if we just embraced our differences.”

– Crystal, Space Needle Worker, Local 8 Member

“This rally was very emotional for me. I was very happy to see all the couples and allies celebrating this victory. It was amazing to see the different generations of people fighting for equality in America”

– Maria, Summer Organizer, Seattle

 

Victory Lap – NYC Delegation to American Eagle Headquarters

 

New York, NY – “The action on Friday for the American Eagle campaign was exciting and eventful. Being part of the leading delegation at the headquarters I watched as the Bangladesh garment workers union representative, Amin, and Unite Here’s Local 100 Organizer, Milan, spoke with an executive. The conversation went well despite the fact that security forcibly pushed us out. This particular action did get the attention of the company. Afterward, at the Gap, we were able to have conversations with two managers and had a successful mike check and leafleting drive. Lastly, we gave the managers at American Eagle the petitions and congratulated them, who seemed to respond positively. Overall the actions were fun and felt like they made an impact.

– Shamima, NYC Research

As some of you may have already heard, our OBB, Organizing Beyond Barriers, Summer Organizers have led a very impressive campaign with American Eagle, pressuring the company to sign the historic Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety—which has ended in VICTORY!

We received word from our allies that American Eagle had agreed to sign the accord as of Thursday of last week. The next day they changed the Corporate Social Responsibility page on their website to read that, indeed, they were publicly acknowledging that they had signed the accord! This is the binding agreement that many international labor groups helped craft, not the non-binding, extremely weak Walmart-Gap agreement that became public the same day.

Our allies in this effort have made it very clear that the reason for American Eagle’s decision in contrast to other retailers is the relentless ground campaign that we ran, which included 40 delegations and over 12,000 signatures collected on petitions in only 4 weeks culminating in a NYC-OBB-Team-led delegation to Corporate Headquarters alongside Amin, the president of the Bangladeshi Garment Workers Union.

In Prayer and Solidarity

– Stuart Mora, American Eagle Outfitters Campaign Coordinator for Organizing Beyond Barriers

“I am a student-writer at San Diego City College and a Summer Organizer with OBB reporting briefly from two intense days of learning and actions in L.A.  In particular, I was affected by the actions taken at the American Eagle stores in Los Angeles.  As many of us know, the story of UNITE HERE includes more than a century in the textile and clothing industries.  The action against American Eagle connected us to this history while advocating for workers in another part of the world.  When we performed the delegation I felt we made a connection with abused workers not only in Bangladesh but around the world.

When the delegation began, for a few seconds I was frightened…what gave me strength was to think on all the workers and children that died in the worst garment factory accident ever; only because corporations are too greedy to care about workers. I could finally hear my voice, at first with fear, later, I did not care who was watching me. We cannot show fear when fighting for the rights of workers.  When it was time to leaflet outside the store and talk to customers passing by, it was empowering to see that you don’t need to be an expert to raise awareness and create consciousness among the public, you just have to put yourself out there and take a stand. I liked seeing how each of the participants had a unique way to get the message across. And in the end, we delivered the message!  One woman told me , This is eye opening for me; I didn’t realize the suffering of other people, we are really lucky.

In the end, learning that American Eagle signed the Agreement on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a lesson we can never forget; the people have power when fighting in solidarity.  It’s an achievement we earned together. The passion and hard work of many of us together made the change.  With our actions we are building bridges with all workers.”

 

Sandra, San Diego OBB Summer Organizer

We came to punish the glutton with a substance that can’t be contained, FOOD Brand Foods ©

Press Coverage:

MarketWatch (Wall Street Journal) – http://www.marketwatch.com/story/unite-here-international-labor-rights-forum-and-bangladeshi-garment-workers-president-announce-american-eagle-as-latest-retailer-to-join-bangladesh-safety-accord-2013-07-12?reflink=MW_news_stmp

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/american-eagle-agrees-to-sign-accord-on-safety-in-bangladesh-garment-industry-695220/

Woman’s Wear Daily http://www.wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/american-eagle-signs-on-7050837

American Eagle Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/americaneagle/posts/10151654874619039

ILRF http://www.laborrights.org/creating-a-sweatfree-world/sweatshops/sweatshop-fires-in-bangladesh/news/nite-here-international-lab

Fibre2Fashion http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/apparel-news/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=148597

Just-Style http://www.just-style.com/analysis/social-media-misses-the-mark-when-it-matters_id118450.aspx

Union Square – Action at American Eagle

New York, NY – In response to the recent garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, Local 100 research interns and OBB summer organizers petitioned at American Eagle’s Union Square branch, asking passersby to demand that AEO sign the Bangladash Fire & Building Safety Accord.

“The manager kicked us out of the store within 5 minutes, but that didn’t stop us from leafleting on the street!”

– Caitlin, NYC Research

“It was great to hit the streets and talk to people about AEO’s [failure] to sign onto an international accord guaranteeing independent safety and fire hazard building inspections at factories it sources from in Bangladesh. Many people were receptive to what we had to say, and I’m excited to see more people get involved in the coming weeks.”

– Antonina, NYC Research

“My name is Melissa and I am a Unite Here OBB summer research intern and a graduate of Colgate University and the CUNY Murphy Institute.

On Friday, June 14, 2013 and Tuesday, June 19, 2013, Unite Here OBB Summer Interns distributed flyers and petitions to customers inside of the American Eagle stores on 14th street and 34th street as well as to the general public outside of the stores to inform them of the retailer’s refusal to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord. The American Eagle Company is one of the few North American retail companies that have declined to participate in the Accord. The Accord would demand that companies conduct safety inspections in factories and allocate funds towards improved security measures. The Accord is particularly relevant at this time given the attention to the factory disasters in Bangladesh. Therefore, the Accord can help to alleviate some of the problems factory workers face every day on the job.

My fellow OBB interns, volunteers, and I engaged politely with individuals inside and outside of the stores to solicit their support for the workers who work in these factories in Bangladesh. Small delegations of interns were sent to speak with the managers in the stores to request that they call on the company to join the Accord. Some people were not aware of the conditions of factories in Bangladesh and the recent incidences that occurred and others refused to sign the petitions because they did not have the time to stop or were reluctant to make a commitment to the cause. Some of the individuals that worked in the stores refused to accept the flyers and sign the petitions out of fear of retaliation by the company.

On November 24, 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh killed over 100 workers who manufacture clothes for large retailers in the United States and only two months ago, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,000 people. Although many of the factories in Bangladesh have been declared unsafe, they continue to employ many workers. Unite Here is committed to the safety and improved working conditions of workers around the world. Workplace health and safety issues are not new to the union. In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory killed 146 workers who were members of the ILGWU. UNITE HERE was formed out of the merger of the ILGWU (International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the ACWA (Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America), the men’s clothing workers union, and the Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE). Hojiwashere

Overall, the action was effective at communicating with the public about the importance and necessity of American Eagle to sign the Accord. The needs of factory workers in Bangladesh are the same as all workers around the world, such as sustainable wages, job security, workplace health and safety, and employment benefits. Regardless of workers’ nationalities, health and safety is an essential component of one’s working conditions. It is not only important from a social and public health perspective, but also a moral issue, which recognizes that all people have human rights.”

– Melissa, NYC Research