Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
I write a lot about Firestone's labor rights abuses in Liberia on this blog, but lately Bridgestone has been getting negative attention in the press for other aspects of its business practices, too. Let's check out the world's largest tire company's record outside of Liberia. (FYI: Bridgestone is a Japanese tire company which bought the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company in 1988. The U.S. branch is now called Bridgestone Americas Holdings. The Firestone Natural Rubber Company, which is responsible for the rubber plantation in Liberia, is a Bridgestone Americas subsidiary.)
A lot of people remember the infamous Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall in 2000 where the company had to recall millions of its faulty tires, but did you know that the company recently admitted that it had made improper payments to government officials to secure sales of its products?
This past Tuesday (February 12th), Bridgestone announced that after an internal review, it had discovered that its hose division gave inappropriate payments (also known as bribes) to foreign agents to secure contracts. The names and locations of the foreign agents who received the payments have not been released. The internal review took place in connection with an ongoing investigation of Bridgestone launched by the U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission and Japan's Fair Trade Commission. Bridgestone said that it will stop taking new orders for its hose division. Last May, U.S. authorities arrested a Bridgestone executive on suspicion of rigging contracts to supply hoses to the oil industry.
So far, the investigation has focused on marine hoses, but the company's press release states, "we are also finding similar instances in relation to other industrial products sold by Bridgestone Corporation." Bridgestone CEO Shoshi Arakawa said in a recent press conference, "I expect the impact on our brand
will be quite large."
On January 31, 2008, eight employees of a Bridgestone/Firestone tire plant in Iowa filed a lawsuit against the company because of racism they allegedly faced in the workplace. The workers reported that they were subjected to racial jokes, slurs and threats, were referred to as slaves and monkeys and nooses and swastikas were hung around the plant. The lawsuit says that the behavior dates back to 1997 and that managers retaliated against workers who complained and wrongfully terminated African Americans based on race.
Workers at a Firestone Polymers plant in Texas are preparing for a possible strike in March. Members of United Steelworkers Local 13-836 have a contract with the company which is set to expire on March 7. The workers are concerned that management wants to replace about 20 formal employees with contract employees who would earn less. Management also wants to reduce the pay of other union employees.
Wow, it looks like Bridgestone has all kind of problems! We should all let Bridgestone/Firestone know that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Do you know about other bad behavior Bridgestone is up to around the world? Do you have thoughts on how to hold this company accountable? Leave a comment with your thoughts!