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.

Los Angeles UFC Delegation

“The Marine delegations were a powerful experience for me since my dad is a Navy Veteran, and one of the delegations we did was to a Navy Recruiting center next door to a Marine Recruiting center. When learning about the UFC’s president’s and top fighters behavior and the things they have said, I realized why my dad had always said he wanted sons and what he fought to protect me, his baby girl, from. And I wanted to protect his honor from the UFC’s use of the armed forces for their reputation, despite my own feelings towards the military.”

–         Ruth, 2012 Summer Organizer, Los Angeles

Photo to the Left: Summer Organizer Ruth delivering petitions to a Marines Recruiting Officer. (L-R): Erica (OBB), Jessica (OBB), Miguel (OBB), Kayla (OBB), Ruth (OBB), Victor (Volunteer), Jesus (OBB), and Eva (Volunteer).

Next Up Young Workers Summit

The AFL-CIO’s Next Up Young Workers Summit was a truly inspiring and exciting weekend! As a college student coming off of my summer with UNITE HERE Local 11 in Los Angeles, it was wonderful to once again be surrounded by people extremely passionate about the labor movement, workers’ rights and economic justice issues. Between the workshops, networking, story sharing and exploring downtown Minneapolis there was little time for thinking about anything other than the changes we need to make so that there is justice for the hardworking people who make this country run.

By far, my favorite part of the conference was being a part of the UNITE HERE delegation. The other OBBs, UNITE HERE staff and UNITE HERE workers weren’t afraid to ask the tough questions and take the lead in workshops, at the microphone and during the actions. This showed me that UNITE HERE is the union leading the way in the national labor movement. UNITE HERE workers and organizers are doing the hard, on the ground, day-to-day organizing it takes to build, strengthen, and expand the movement. And many of those people doing that important work are the young ones I met at the conference.

The conference left me excited and ready to share what I learned with others who might not know much about the labor movement. I’m inspired to maintain the connections I made and the momentum I gained to pursue economic justice campaigns both on and off campus.

Young worker leaders are changing this country for the better. Get ready because they are revitalizing and reenergizing the labor movement!

-Josephine, 2011 Summer Organizer

Summer Reflections from Los Angeles

In addition to interning with UNITE HERE Local 11, I am also interning this summer with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. CLUE is an interfaith non-profit that engages clergy across Los Angeles to walk with workers and their families in their struggle for dignity and respect in the workplace.

While UNITE HERE and CLUE are allies in the struggle for workers’ rights, they deal with different aspects of the same movement. CLUE brings clergy into the fight for economic justice because faith leaders are able to use their moral authority to speak truth to power. While CLUE has many campaigns focused on different workers in the city, including carwash workers, port truck drivers, and hotel workers, I have been working closely on the grocery workers’ campaign.

Currently grocery workers in Southern California have been without a contract for five months and despite negotiations, they are preparing for a strike.  CLUE understands that a strike would affect not only the 65,000 grocery workers, but also affect collectively their 300,000 family members.

So as not to repeat the devastating strike and lock-out of 2003, CLUE is organizing congregations across the city to Adopt a Store. This campaign involves congregations adopting a supermarket in their area, writing a letter of support for the workers and delivering that letter to the store’s management in a delegation. Last week the CLUE interns did a delegation to an Albertson’s in South LA. It was empowering to let the manager know that as members of the community we support the workers in this time of uncertainty.

Being exposed to both union organizing and faith-based organizing has shown me there many aspects to the fight for social and economic justice. Interning with UNITE HERE and CLUE has taught me that the movement to bring respect, dignity and justice to all workers across this country needs the involvement not only of the workers and the union, but also of students and clergy of all faiths.

-Josie, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles

My name is Risa, and I am the communications intern at UNITE HERE Local 11 this summer. Before June of this year, I had no experience at a labor union, and only a dim understanding of the labor movement in this country.

I’m happy to say I can no longer say the same. Some of the most valuable experiences I’ve had this summer were the weekly trainings, which have put the labor movement in a larger context for me. The movement is not just about union organizing – it is about immigrants’ rights. It is about gender and sexual equality. It is about sustainable food and agricultural practices. UNITE HERE strives to be a union that takes all these social issues into account.

The labor movement does not exist in a vacuum, and it requires strength and support from many other movements to maintain its momentum and garner more advocates. The weekly trainings on the various issues surrounding the labor movement invite discussion from their participants, which is often heated and passionate, but never vitriolic. We have found ways to discuss even the most polarizing issues (gay marriage, for example, or illegal immigration) in a friendly and open environment. 

We may all work for the same union, but many of the summer organizers, interns, full-time union members, and field organizers do not share the same views on these topics, and we often come from extremely different backgrounds. But I think there is valuable insight to be gained on both sides when, say, an East Coast trust-funder engages in meaningful conversation with a Salvadoran immigrant who is holding down two jobs. 

Along with our backgrounds and beliefs, we all have different levels of education on the topics we are discussing. In our first training, what may have seemed like a dumbed down run-through of the labor movement’s history to a seasoned UNITE HERE veteran was extremely informative to me, a relative newcomer. However, having just completed one of my favorite college history classes, The History of Oil and World Power, I was able to drop some knowledge on the sustainable foods training group today when the discussion turned to the amount of fossil fuel required to get a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder from the feed lot to your tray (ask me about it – I’ll talk you ear off). 

I have also heard dozens of stories from summer organizers, my fellow students and graduates, about their roles organizing the food and service workers at their schools. One student became so entrenched in underground organizing at Pomona College that he disappeared almost entirely from college social life. A Loyola Marymount University student made his way into the president’s office to demand fair wages for the workers on his campus. That is dedication to a cause of the likes of which I have never seen in people my age, and it inspires me. 

What I’m saying is that the summer program, like the labor movement as a whole, is more than just the sum of its parts. We are in this fight together, which means we have to talk and share and learn from each other’s experiences, backgrounds, and knowledge. Building relationships is what makes this union run, and only through arming ourselves as a community can we possibly expect to win the labor battles we are fighting in hotels every day. 

-Risa, Summer Organizer, Los Angeles

Action at Pomona

On Wednesday, August 3rd, workers and students from across the country rallied at Pomona College to protest the treatment of a fired dining hall worker at the school. The protest began with a 100-person picket of Alexander Hall: on the picket-line, Pomona workers, students, and alumni, joined by students, organizers, and workers from UNITE HERE, chanted: “what do we want?” “Francisco back!”

The chant referred to the recent termination of Francisco Garcia, a cook at Pomona for 16 years: Garcia is both a leader in the dining hall workers’ unionization drive and an injured worker. Part of Wednesday’s protest included a delegation to General Manager Glenn Graziano, and Assistant Director of Campus Facilities, Margie McKenna, who were observing the rally, and were presented with Unfair Labor Practice charges. Now, the school will face an investigation into Garcia’s termination by the National Labor Relations Board’s Regional Office.

Workers, led by Francisco Garcia, also presented the ULP charges to Vice President Karen Sisson. “During the negotiations, you said the workers had a voice (in the workplace). Well, this is our voice,” said cook Christian Torres to Sisson, referring to the strength of the workers’ and students’ collective action. Cook Rolando Araiza then led the group in a “Si Se Puede” chant.

Outside of Alexander Hall, the rally continued: student and alumni supporters spoke out. Loyola Marymount University (LMU) student Fatima also spoke, explaining how workers and students had come together at her school and organized for two years to finally win the union in April. “On behalf of LMU students, we support your right to a democratic process to unionize,” she encouraged Pomona workers. The two-hour rally ended with workers, students, and alumni locking arms, and singing “De Colores.” Many press venues covered the event, including TV channels NBC and Azteca, ensuring that the workers’ message of fighting on is heard loud and clear.

Si se puede!