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

Northern California to Arizona Freedom Ride

Hello, my name is Justin and I would like to tell you about my second trip to Arizona to help register voters as part of the Adios Arpaio campaign. The decision to drive a van of twelve people fourteen hours each way to register voters was an easy one to make. The struggle for Immigrant workers dignity in Arizona is the most important thing I could do ever with my weekend and I had eleven other people with me who agreed. Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio was one of the key proponents of SB1070 and has led its enforcement in Maricopa County. Because this was my second trip to Arizona, it gave me a little perspective on what to expect on the ground.  The thing I would never have expected was the hard work and amazing results Union Organizers and community volunteers in Phoenix had accomplished in such little time. My first trip in July of this year, I recall the numbers of registrations the Union had helped facilitate as close to ten thousand. Over those two months the volunteers and Union Organizers had garnered a total of twenty five thousand voter registrations. Less than two weeks after our trip, the final numbers of voters registered would be thirty our thousand. I remember two of the most amazing volunteers were two young men who were brothers. These brothers were an inspiring duo. I watched one of them register sixteen voters in a four hour period and the other power map a local library like a pro because he wanted to be able to register voters inside and not at the curb. It was inspiring for all of us to volunteer our time for something we believe in and deepened my commitment to the Union Movement in America.

– Justin, 2012 OBB Summer Organizer

Oakland Airport Delegation

3 weeks ago, non-union food service workers from the Oakland Airport collectively delegated their bosses and demanded a fair process to decide whether they want union representation. Watching these workers whom I’ve grown to know and admire has been such an experience for me. Workers at concessions such as Subway, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, See’s Candies, and Jamba Juice etc. have been treated poorly by their bosses.  Examples of conditions that workers face include a lack of overtime pay, no steady work schedule, and pay below the Port of Oakland’s Living Wage standard. Over the past weeks, I’ve seen women emerge as leaders in their workplace. These women have been taking the lead among their coworkers and stand as examples of strength for their families. During committee meetings, I see the same strength in these women as I see in my own mother and it inspires me to continue to fight with them for justice. In the past few weeks, our campaign has held actions at the Oakland Airport and the Port of Oakland with union members from the airport, UNITE HERE! supporters and other local unions like the SEIU. Between UNITE HERE! Organizers, nonunion workers, and the Host union workers at the airport, we all push each other forward and remind each other why we’re fighting. Some days are more difficult than others but every day is a step closer to winning.

– Sofia , 2012 Summer Organizer, Oakland

 
Top Photo: On July 12th, union and non-union workers from the Oakland airport unite with OBBers to tell the Port of Oakland Commissioners, “We need Justice Now!” Non-union workers went public with their campaign to demand a fair process to determine whether they want to organize a union 2 weeks ago!

Bottom Photo: On July 6th, 150 workers from all over the Oakland airport from UNITE HERE Local 2850 and other unions along with OBBers and volunteers have our first rally to demand justice at the airport!

San Francisco Pride!

Showing Our Pride in the Bay Area!

 

San Francisco Pride!

“Marching in the Gay Pride Parade with UNITE HERE Local 2 was an amazing experience! Everyone in the parade seemed to be feeding off of the energy from the crowd. The crowd chanted and high-fived us with such enthusiasm.” – Jessika, Summer Organizer, Oakland

San Francisco Pride!

Reflections on Civil Disobedience: 24 Arrested in Northern California

Last Thursday, June 23rd, 24 union members, community members, and interfaith supporters were arrested in a civil disobedience in Pleasanton, California. Pleasanton is home to Castlewood Country Club, an elite golf course.

About a year and a half ago, 61 Castlewood Country Club workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2850, were renegotiating their contract with management. Management wanted to workers to pay $849 a month for family health insurance, which is not affordable for most of the members.

UNITE HERE even offered a contract that would be cheaper than management’s proposed contract, while still providing workers with affordable healthcare, but management refused to accept it. On February 25th, 2010, Castlewood workers showed up to work and were locked out. Management had filled their jobs with temporary workers. Since the start of the lockout there have been many demonstrations and regular pickets.

June 23rd marked Castlewood’s most important member golf tournament of the year. Castlewood workers, community members, students, and interfaith allies were there to make sure it wasn’t business as usual. 24 people put their bodies on the line and blocked a road to the golf course for three hours, delaying the golfer’s tournament and sending the message that none of us will give up until the workers return to work with affordable healthcare.

It was an emotional action. Summer Organizer Lupe said, “Before, I was pumped up, I was excited to see all the different folks that were going to support us. However, the day of the action I begin to feel nervous I felt that any tiny error could jeopardize the whole action. Then once the action began I was privileged to have confident and strong leadership that guided me throughout the whole action. I draw great motivation witnessing the strength of Francisca Carranza, who is a locked out Castlewood worker. In addition to being a leader in the fight, Francisca is the mother of my fellow summer organizer Adrianna, who also inspires me. I was surrounded by so much courage that I felt that I, too, had the courage to do this.”

Summer Organizer Tim reports, “I was doing security along with other summer organizers to keep protestors safe. I had a close encounter with a few golf carts, as angry golfers moved rocks on the side of the road and tried to drive onto the course. Overall the action was a successful, inspiring display of collective action.”

Summer Organizer Caroline shares her experience getting arrested and facing injustice head-on:

“When the time came, we took our places sitting in the street and watched as golfers came down the hill in their golf carts to begin their tournament. At one point a man in a golf cart actually began to drive through the crowd on the side of the road where I was sitting. I realized he might try to run us down in front of a police officer. Two people from the security team stepped in front of the golf cart to shield us and the driver continued driving into them until the police officer stopped him. I could not believe that playing in a golf tournament was important enough to physically harm someone. This made me so angry and helped me imagine the frustration the Castlewood workers face in dealing with management.

“Seeing all of the hotel workers, union members, community groups, friends and family, I was filled with a deep sense of pride and excitement. We kept chanting and clapping as the golfers tried anything to get to their course and police re-directed traffic.  After three solid hours, our group filled the streets to give speeches, hear from workers and celebrate the strength of our solidarity. Even from my position on the ground, I felt extremely powerful. After some time, a police officer approached me and said, ‘Ma’am, are you ready?’ With the support of everyone around me cheering, I asked, ‘Am I under arrest?’ After he confirmed, I got up, he handcuffed me, led me down the street along the golf course. As I walked, with other arrestees in front and behind, and golfers looking on, I continued chanting ‘No Justice – No peace!’ By the time we reached the police bus, it was just my voice and the voice of the person behind me, but we refused to stop chanting. They took my mugshot and loaded me into a locked cage on the bus and drove us to Santa Rita-Alameda County Jail.

“At the jail, police officers patted me down, lifted up my shirt with male inmates looking on and cat-calling and then loaded the 16 women into a small holding cell with just a concrete bench and a toilet in the center of the room. After several hours I started feeling scared and sick, but the women around me tried to offer their support. We shared our thoughts and recounted all of the funny, frustrating and exciting parts of the action. My experience in jail was unpleasant to say the least, but at no point did I regret participating in the civil disobedience at Castlewood. I felt sincerely happy with the action we had done and the media attention we had attracted.

“Walking out of jail after 8 hours, I was met by the cheers of Local 2850 staff, Castlewood employees and friends. They had been waiting with food and beverages and let me know they had been supporting me the entire time. At the end of a long day, I was exhausted but deeply satisfied with the power of collective action and solidarity. Participating in civil disobedience at the Castlewood Country Club helped me to solidify my understanding of what we’re fighting for and what we’re fighting against.”

Watch the video below and learn more about the contract fight at endthelockout.org and at UNITE HERE Local 2850’s Facebook page.