Philadelphia – Fast for Safe Schools

“In the beginning of June the School District of Philadelphia mailed over 3000 layoff notices. Out of that, 1,202 were for Student Safety Staff (members of Local 634), who are an essential part of the schools. This layoff was district-wide, and with this decision the schools would be completely unsafe for the children and the few remaining staff members.

On June 11, 2013, I was asked by the leaders of Local 634 to be a part of a drastic move to change the course of the projected plans of the school district for the upcoming school year. The move was to fast and pray for two weeks eating no food and drinking only water and resting in the basement of a church. It was not a hard decision for me to make because it was for the children and I wanted to do whatever it took to make a change.

Through the mighty action of the fast, the layoffs and current unsafe school situation went from only being a passing conversation among workers and family members perhaps, to gaining nationwide and international recognition. Most of all, the Governor changed his course of action from giving nearing nothing to fill the 330 million dollar deficit, to finding 140 million dollars and the recognition that there will be a new priority set for the Philadelphia school system in the future. The 140 million dollars is not enough to satisfy the current budget needs, however it is a start in the right direction to educate our children rather than to prepare them for failure and life of incarceration.”

– Marcia Teagle, School Cafeteria Worker, UNITE HERE Local 634 Member

New Haven Summer Organizers Sarah, Latoya, Eshe, and Mark went to Philadelphia with a delegation of local union and community leaders to join the Fast for Safe Schools. New Haven Summer Organizers Max and Gabe (not pictured) joined the fasters’ support team and stayed in Philadelphia for the duration.

 

“Spending time with the fasters in Philly further affirmed for me what organizing always seems to be teaching us: that our connections to each other, to some higher purpose, even to God—when channeled right—can be powerful enough to get even the strongest governments and companies to bend, and acknowledge that the people are a powerful force they must answer to in some way.”

– Eshe, Summer Organizer, New Haven

 

 

 

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
 

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Marine Corps did not renew sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Las Vegas, Nevada – After a nationwide public outcry, the U.S. Marine Corps did not renew its sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the Las Vegas-based promoter of cage fighting events.

“We applaud the Marine Corps for taking this important step that respects the dignity of our men and women in uniform,” said Beatriz Topete, a U.S. Army veteran and director of the Veterans Committee of UNITE HERE, a labor union that represents more than 250,000 workers in the hospitality industry in North America. “We believe it is time for other sponsors to follow the lead of the Marine Corps and sever all ties with the UFC.”

The decision by the Marine Corps follows months of outrage and media attention. Military veterans, LGBTQ activists and survivors of sexual assault publicly called on the Marine Corps to sever its ties with the UFC over violent, homophobic, misogynistic and otherwise socially irresponsible remarks made by UFC fighters and its president, Dana White. The campaign to end the UFC-Marine Corps partnership was supported by more than two dozen state and national organizations. They included the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Protect Our Defenders, National Institute of Military Justice, Veterans For Common Sense, Veterans For Peace, Veterans United For Truth, Women in the Military Project, and Sanctuary Project Veterans, as well as individual survivors of military sexual assault.

“This action by the Marine Corps is a step in the right direction. Military culture for too long has permitted degrading, violent and hate-filled speech and behavior towards men and women,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, a national group that advocates for survivors of military sexual assault.

Popular UFC fighters have joked about rape on their public Twitter accounts, and made remarks that are demeaning towards women, gays and Latinos. In a disturbing video published in April on YouTube, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson pretends to sexually assault a woman in a parking garage using chloroform and zip ties. Jackson is scheduled to fight on the “UFC on FOX 6” event on Jan. 26th.

Other sponsors or business partners of the UFC include: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Edge Shaving Gel, Electronic Arts, FOX, Harley-Davidson Inc., MetroPCS Communications, MusclePharm, SafeAuto, Toyo Tires, TapouT, and XYIENCE Energy.

Rhode Island Political Accountability Delegation

Only July 10th, 2012, over one hundred workers and community members came out from across Rhode Island to speak with politicians inside the Local 217 office in Providence. People spoke up in favor of fair wages, job security, health care, and creating a stable economy for working people. The conversation then turned to the Twin River Casino contract fights, where Twin River management has closed its two restaurants on Sundays, is attempting to take away time and a half on Sundays, and changed health benefits. Additionally, the operators of the fast food outlets in the building are attempting to lower wages by as much as 25%. People shared their personal stories in order to illustrate just how those changes would affect their middle class jobs and damage their families. 15 politicians listened, questioned, and engaged in debate about how they could support these casino workers. Providence Westin hotel workers, Newport school cafeteria workers, and students voiced their support, in hopes of creating a more stable Rhode Island economy for working people. Most of the politicians in attendance signed on to a letter in support of the workers at Twin River Casino. This was Twin River workers first political action as a group, and they are more motivated than ever to continue to fight for a fair contract.

“Hearing the workers personal stories of how a lack of affordable health care and decrease in work hours would affect their lives was a really powerful force in the room. The politicians took these workers very seriously because they stood strong, and they stood together.” – Bryan, 2012 Summer Organizer, Rhode Island

“Going to different youth organizations, work places, and talking to community members was a tiring process and I was nervous that people were not going to be at the action. It was so exciting to finally see all those people in one room supporting each other and speaking passionately about their lives. Afterwards, the Twin River worker said this was the first time she thought that politicians might actually do something for her.” – Nicole, 2012 Summer Organizer, Rhode Island

Boston UFC Delegation

On July 12th, this past Thursday, a group of summer organizers, volunteers, members of Veterans for Peace, and one veteran member of our union delegated the US Marine Corps to tell them that the UFC is Unfit for the Corps. After preparing for this delegation for several weeks, and roleplaying some possible outcomes, we were ready (yet nervous) to deliver the demands of over 4,000 supporters to the nearby Marine Corps recruitment office.

There was a lot of energy and excitement as everyone introduced themselves and the spokespeople shared their stories. Although several of the recruiting officers put up some arguments, defending their “partnership” with the company known as UFC, after it became clear that we weren’t going to be persuaded to give up, they stopped arguing and agreed to pass the message and petitions up the chain of command. After leaving the office with their promise to pass the message on, our high spirits continued onto the street where we passed out leaflets to people passing by the office.

We’re looking forward to hearing more about how things went down in other cities, as well as how the Marine Corps will respond to our collective actions.

Solidarity

-Neimy and Liam, 2012 Summer Organizers, Boston

 

Above Group Photo: “OBBers, volunteers, a Local 26 member veteran, and Veterans for Peace allies about to head in for their delegation.”  Back Row:  Charron (OBB volunteer),  Pat McGuire (Veterans for Peace),  Mark Matthews (Local 26 member and veteran), Liam (Summer Organizer), Douglas Stuart (Veterans for Peace), David Aguirre (Veterans for Peace), Thandiwe (Summer Organizer), Sam Geaney-Moore  (site leader), Alicia (Summer Organizer), Thien (Summer Organizer), Jia Hui (Summer Organizer). Front row: Roudna (Summer Organizer), Renee (Summer Organizer), Mary (Summer Organizer), Sergiu (Summer Organizer), Neimy (Summer Organizer).