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

Midwest Locals Take Action at Chicago American Eagle

Chicago, IL – “Upon arriving at Water Tower we quickly strategized outside then proceeded to the action. We took the escalator up to the sixth floor and had one more short prep session. We walked into American Eagle and immediately asked to speak with the manager on duty. A young lady who looked to be about 25 informed us that there were several on duty but that she could help us. I told her about the conditions of many of the American Eagle facilities overseas and of course she was not aware. I also told her about the Bangladesh accord that American Eagle had not signed on to yet and she was not aware of that either. After several more uncomfortable questions one of her fellow managers came to her aid and promised us he would contact someone in their corporate office.  We left the register and talked to the few customers that were in the store and left fliers in the pants and shirt pockets.

After about 15 minutes of leafleting the store we were asked to leave by the same manager that we approached. After a few awkward minutes of back and forth we left the store. Then right on queue mall security walked up to the store and told us there was to be no soliciting in Water Tower and asked us to leave. Even though we were not soliciting anything we complied and followed mall security down the escalators. Initially there was one man but by the time we reached the doors to the street there were about five or six of them.

This was a great action that I learned a lot from. First I learned that the employees are just as clueless as the customers. That is, the company does not inform them about their business practices. Not even the store managers knew. I was a bit surprised that they did not know anything about what had happened in Bangladesh either. I also learned that the employees are not on the board. What I mean by this is that they don’t make the decisions as to where American Eagles builds factories. The employees do not make the decision to exploit workers in foreign lands. It felt good to know that I was helping them learn about the true practices of their employer. Finally I learned that it is not hard to get kicked out of a shopping mall. Overall the action was very fun and I am excited to do more of them. It feels good being apart of something bigger, knowing that this was going on simultaneously in 20 other cities. I believe that the strategy will work because after about ten minutes of being in the store we got one of the managers on the phone with corporate. If they receive enough of those calls something will change.”

–  Erik 22, OBB Chicago Local 1

 

Freedom to Work Action in the Indianapolis City-County Council

My name is Lucas. I am a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and have volunteered for over a year with our union. I chose to be a part of OBB this summer because I want to become a better organizer and because, as a person with cerebral palsy, every day I face some of the same disrespect and discrimination that working people in our community face.

The highlight of my summer so far was the City-County Council meeting on July 16th here in Indianapolis. We packed the Council chambers with nearly 500 people, a visual “sea of red,” for the Council’s vote on our Freedom to Work ordinance, which would end the blacklisting of subcontracted hotel workers in our city. In Indianapolis many hotels subcontract large amounts of their work to temporary agencies, which pay workers minimum wage and no benefits. In January fourteen housekeepers filed a $10 million class-action lawsuit against the largest temp agency, HSS, and nine hotels for the wage underpayment they and their co-workers had suffered regularly over the last several years. When temp agency workers seek better employment by trying to apply directly to the hotels, they are told that they cannot be hired because they belong to the temp agency. Our city county council voted 16-12 to ban this practice of blacklisting temp agency employees. This was a historic vote in Indianapolis because our council had never passed union-backed legislation in support of hotel workers, and the entire hotel industry came out to oppose us!

I couldn’t even see the testimony from my wheelchair because the room was so crowded. There were more than fifty of us out in the hall outside who could not even enter the room. I am proud of the work our OBB team did to make this event happen because we helped force the politicians in our city as well as the hotel industry to pay attention to the issues facing the lowest-wage hotel workers in our city. I am proud of our city for standing with working people because it shows how much we care about our community. The organizing we do as a union and nights like last Monday give me the strength to face the physical and social challenges of being a disabled person. It is truly inspiring.

Lucas, 2012 Summer Organizer, Indianapolis

Auction

A Creative A(u)ction in Indianapolis

AuctionOn June 29th, summer volunteers and interns in Indianapolis put on a creative and attention-grabbing action at a busy farmers’ market downtown. The action was a parody of an advertisement of Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS), a Hyatt subcontractor. HSS’ advertisement depicts sullen, uniformed hotel workers in a police line-up, implying that they could be criminals.

At the action, four volunteers dressed up as hotel workers, holding mug-shot placards and standing against a white backdrop designed to look like a police line-up. Another volunteer acted as an auctioneer, wearing a suit coat and top hat, advertising “the cheapest labor around!” to passersby while others handed out fliers.

OneI spent a portion of the action taking photos, and in doing so, was able to take a step back and pay attention to the reactions of the people around us. The most significant thing I noticed was how responsive and receptive people were: most readily took a flyer, and many even paused to have a brief conversation about the boycott. Almost all who did so had previously been unaware of the boycott and – more importantly – unaware of the reasons behind the boycott. I spoke with a group of construction workers who, after I told them about the  boycott, were not only supportive, but able to draw connections between the struggle of the hotel workers and their own experiences as workers.

This action was not just fun and creative, it was effective. It piqued the curiosity of passersby enough to overcome what can sometimes be the most difficult step when flyering: getting someone to take a flyer and engage in a conversation. Yes, we looked a little strange standing in front of a bedsheet on the sidewalk; yes, it was probably jarring to hear a man pretending to auction off workers (“Cheap, cheap labor! Only $7.25 an hour!”) in a voice much like that of a circus ringleader. But stranger than both of these things is that the advertisement we were mimicking and the stories we were telling were true. That is, unquestionably, the most ridiculous thing of all.

Flyer

-Kylie, Summer Organizer, Indianapolis