Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
Yesterday, the Stop Firestone coalition held a protest outside of the DC office of Public Strategies, Inc. Public Strategies is the public relations firm which represents Firestone. They publicly distort Firestone's long history of exploitation on their rubber plantation in Liberia. Activists in DC rallied outside of Public Strategies to say that we will no longer accept Public Strategies' lies and we want Firestone to make real improvements on their rubber plantation in Liberia instead of spending millions of dollars spent on PR and advertising.
Check out lots of photos from the protest here and keep reading for more information and links to press coverage.
First, Emira Woods from Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and I delivered a letter to Marina Marich at Public Strategies (she handles their work with Firestone). The letter asked Ms. Marich to arrange a meeting between the coalition and Firestone Natural Rubber Company CEO Dan Adomitis and requested a response by August 1, 2008. The letter pledged to continue to mobilize people all across the country to protest Public Strategies and Firestone until we get that meeting.
Protesters marched outside Public Strategies' office building during the downtown lunch rush wearing bright red t-shirts and holding signs. We shouted chants like "Hey hey, ho ho! Child Labor's got to go!", "Public Strategies: you are liars! There's exploitation in your tires!", "Beep beep, toot toot! Firestone get off that loot" and "Hey Firestone! Do us a favor -- Stop exploiting Liberian labor!" We also passed out flyers and filled out many pages of petitions to deliver to Firestone. At the end of the rally, we reminded Public Strategies that this will be just the beginning until our demands our met by yelling "We'll be back! We'll be back!"
The protest was mainly organized by the amazing interns at the International Labor Rights Forum.
Right now is a crucial point in the campaign because the leaders of the Firestone Agricultural Workers of Liberia are negotiating the first real contract with Firestone management. A strong contract is an important tool for workers in improving their living and working conditions. Having dealt with 82 years of exploitation, this negotiation process provides a lot of hope for workers and their families, but it's also a tough fight. The issue of wages is becoming a major point of contention in the negotiations. The Stop Firestone Coalition will continue to support the demands of the workers throughout the collective bargaining process and after a contract is signed to ensure that their rights are finally respected by Firestone.
We hope that YOU will join us by checking out www.StopFirestone.org and checking out all of our ways to take action. Let's tell Firestone that 82 years is enough and stand in solidarity with workers in Liberia!
Check out some recent coverage of this protest and the Firestone campaign:
"Bridgestone/Firestone Rubber Company in Liberia Accused of Human Rights Abuses" - VOA News
"Exploitation in Firestone Tires" - Metro Washington (DC) Council AFL-CIO
"Protest Targets Firestone" - The Daily Observer
"Public Criticism for Public Strategies" - PRWatch.org