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

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

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.

Miami UFC Delegation

On July 12th, Miami OBBers delegated three different recruitment centers accompanied by 25 supporters drawn from Local 355 membership, community leaders of womens’, LGBTQ, and immigrant rights groups, and Episcopal priest, Father Aguilar of Unite Here Local 355.  We met with different reactions at each location.  At the first, we were told that we had to conduct our delegation outside of the office. We all introduced ourselves individually and expressed why we personally felt that the Marines should withdraw their sponsorship. The officer listened patiently, and watched the USMC recruitment commercial and the compilation video of UFC fighters’ and Dana White’s crude comments and behavior.  Finally, he stated that he couldn’t express any opinions of his own because he was in uniform and therefore couldn’t make any comments on behalf of the Marine Corps. He also refused to take the stack of 5,000 petitions. We left the stack outside the office door before leaving.  Our second delegation was similar, with the recruiter refusing to take the petitions, and saying that he couldn’t respond.

The delegation at the third location had a bit more success with speaking to the officers who watched the videos, spoke about the issue, and agreed to talk to their superior officers on the matter. Overall, we were successful in delivering our message at all three locations and everyone felt really great about expressing our concerns and having our voices heard. We hope that the delegations in the other cities were successes as well, and we’re looking forward to any news regarding the U.S. Marine Corps’ involvement with the UFC.

Shannon, 2012 Summer Organizer, Miami

 

Top Photo to the Left: The man in front holding the petitions is Winston Garvey, a Unite Here member from the Fort Lauderdale Airport. To his left is Bianka Salomon from Student Labor Action Project (at the University of Central Florida) and to his right is Unite Here Member Maurice from the Marlins stadium. To Bianka’s left is Mackenson Massenat, a Unite Here member from Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Top Photo to the Right: Dylan, Miami OBB Intern, speaking directly to the recruiting officer with the petitions in hand, was joined by Unite Here Member Maurice from the Marlins stadium, Coveannda a student from the Florida International University’s Women Studies program, Nick Wulff from Students Working for Equal Rights (at Florida International University’s Kendall campus) and Father Richard Aguilar, an Episcopalian priest who is now working for Unite Here doing community outreach.

Bottom Photo to the Left: The Miami OBB Interns speaking with a recruiting officer, were joined by Marie from the Dream Defenders, Coveannda from the Florida International University’s Women Studies program, and Carmen and Alice who volunteered to join to show their support.

New Orleans Rallying Outside the Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement Building

Hey there! My name is Ian, and I’m a summer intern with UNITE HERE in New Orleans, Louisiana. On the second day of my internship, our group coordinator, Scott, received an urgent text about a rally downtown that needed our support. We swiftly mobilized in front of The Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement where we were greeted by the Roche’s, a family from Guatemala with four sons, along with Dream Activists Louisiana.  They told us the story of Henry, the oldest son, who was on the verge of deportation. Henry himself gave a moving speech about his life in Guatemala and how he now felt like an American and only wanted to stay here with his family so that he could pursue his dream of becoming a dentist. His mother’s words pierced our hearts when she said that going back meant he could face extortion, kidnapping, or even death.

We stood in solidarity with signs and chanted, “The people united, will never be defeated! ¡El pueblo unido,
jamás será vencido!” A few yards away, a line of security guards was the perfect symbol for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: a gang of bullies with badges. When the sun reached its highest point, the rally dissolved and we left the Bureau wishing the best to the Roche family.

After refueling, we mapped out our next action on the back of an empty pizza box.  The plan was to go to the W Hotel, an upscale hotel, and pass out flyers. We were there to inform customers and W Hotel managers about the dispute that UNITE HERE has with the HEI-operated W Hollywood.  We spread out around the building leafleting. One security guard for the hotel walked out and said to a woman with a flyer, “Don’t read that, that’s garbage”. The woman was only more enticed to read something that caused such a reaction. Never had I imagined that we would be doing such important work this summer.  I look forward to doing more, and writing about more exciting adventures in the future!

– Ian, 2012 Summer Organizer, New Orleans

Top Photo: Ian with his fellow interns and the Louisiana Dream Activist rallying outside the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building.

Bottom Photo: Ian’s fellow New Orleans OBB Interns, Shanique and Byron, handing out flyers outside of the W Hotel.

Growing as an Organizer in New Orleans

On June 6th, 2011, my life was opened to many new opportunities and people that I never even imagined I’d encounter. This was the day I began my Summer Organizer position with UNITE HERE through the Organizing Beyond Barriers program. My leads, Scott Cooper and Yvonne Gladney, have really directed this internship in the best way possible. I and my fellow Summer Organizers Charles and Michael have experienced so many new things and discovered new talents and areas of improvement that we fear would have remained dormant otherwise.

We hit the ground running in June, participating in a Shop Stewards meeting for the Grand Hotel and Casino on the second day of the program. We have also spent many hours on house visits, campus surveys and the ever-important planning that must be done when starting new here in the Big Easy. All this led up to a trip to Chicago. It was a truly amazing experience getting exposed to the LGBTQ and SkyChefs struggle along with meeting all of the fellow Summer Organizers at Local 1. Since the trip we have planned numerous actions and trainings that all have gone well.

One experience in particular helped me grow as an organizer: A police officer arrived on the scene while we were leafleting at a CVS location in New Orleans. I was afraid he was going to give us a hard time but I didn’t want to appear nervous. So, I proceeded to explain that SkyChefs plight to the officer. I realized I was able to stay poised under pressure, which grew my confidence. I also tried to hand him a leaflet, but he didn’t take one – we all had a good laugh about that afterwards.

We drove to San Antonio this week to participate in a rally at the Hyatt. Yesterday’s Hyatt rally was a very inspiring event that I will never forget. It was well organized, publicized, and effective. Hyatt if not before definitely now knows that UNITE HERE means business – we are here and will continue to be here to make sure that justice is served!

Coming into the closing weeks of this program I am grateful for the opportunity and experiences and am expecting good things in the future for UNITE HERE and the rest of the struggling working class. This internship has opened my eyes to how I can make a difference in this world not by writing about it or reading a book but actually doing something and standing up for what’s right.

Zachary, Summer Organizer, New Orleans