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.

Signature Drive at the NYC Pride Parade

Last Sunday we did a big signature drive at the NYC Pride Parade to get support for the Unfit for the Corps campaign. I hadn’t been out in the field yet and it was good to talk to people and get their reactions to the campaign. For two hours I walked around telling those who would stop to listen about the campaign and asking for their signatures. Some signed because they liked the stickers I was handing out, but many listened and agreed with the cause. A number of people were shocked that the Marine Corps had given so much money to the UFC, one person asking me “how can they do that?” I met a number of people who had family members in the Marines or who were former Marines themselves and all of them seemed excited to sign the petition. All in all we ended up getting almost 2,000 signatures for the day, which felt like a really good number. We all were feeling pretty accomplished, if also a bit sunburned.
-Will, 2012 OBB Summer Research Intern, New Yotk
Photo to the Left: UNITE HERE Staff and members joined for the big signature drive at the NYC Pride Parade.
Photo to the Right: The UNITE HERE Local 100 table at the NYC Pride Parade.

Read similar stories from OBBers during Pride Week in Seattle and Chicago!

Summer Organizers, Workers Seize the Day at Manhattan College

Last Thursday, June 16, 2011,  we had the opportunity to take part in a powerful worker-led action at Manhattan College.

Manhattan College replaced Sodexo with a company called Gourmet Dining to operate its cafeteria. As a result, all of the Sodexo employees were terminated.

Gourmet Dining announced that they would hold a hiring session. However, the opportunity had been announced not just to the incumbent workers, but to the general public!

On the day of the hiring session, we gathered with almost all former employees outside the facility. The employees then walked into the hiring session together, showing a powerful, united presence. We sent a message to Gourmet Dining that they were not dealing with individual workers, but with a strong collective force.

Afterwards, we interviewed workers about their experiences with the hiring process. Former employees re-grouped outside and nearly every person signed a union card, authorizing UNITE HERE Local 100 to represent them in collective bargaining. This was a great success not only for the union, but for the former employees as well. Those who previously worked at the cafeteria at Manhattan College felt empowered and were able to take an active role in protecting their rights and their future.

Being part of the action on Thursday and seeing dozens of workers come together and fight for their rights and their jobs as a united group reminded us of why we want to be a part of this movement. Because it allows the disheartened to hope, it moves the fearful to fight and it will transform the powerlessness of one into the victory of many.

-Yoel and Katherine, Summer Organizers, New York City

UNITE HERE and the Crisis: New York

On Saturday, June 18, 2011, UNITE HERE Local 100 presented a training session about the past, present and future of the labor movement. Staff members, shop stewards from cafeterias represented by the union, summer organizers and volunteers participated in the training.

We began with gaining an understanding of the economic climate of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – the growing divide between the rich and the poor really stood out.

Local 100 organizers then recounted their experiences of the fight to bring the union to the shops where they themselves had previously been workers! These stories gave insight to the history of Local 100 and its transformations over the past forty years. It was fascinating to hear everyone’s personal story of how they had gotten involved in the union.

To demonstrate the shared struggle of workers in our industries across the country, the training also featured “One Day Longer,” an inspirational film about the Frontier Hotel strike in Las Vegas. It was amazing to see all the different pieces that allowed workers to win that fight.

Ultimately, this training emphasized the crisis of inequality, and the necessity of volunteering in the labor movement. We were inspired, and we believe that the education gained from this workshop will translate into an increased involvement of committed workers and community members in the labor movement.

-Liam, Erika and Jessica: Summer Organizers, New York City