Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
For the second year in a row, Bridgestone Firestone is the title sponsor of the NFL Super Bowl Halftime show. Close to 100 million football fans across the country will tune in to watch Bruce Springsteen perform and will see two new 30-second commercials (estimated to cost at least $3 million each) from the world's largest tire company.
Unfortunately, the exploitation workers face on Firestone's rubber plantation in Liberia will receive much less scrutiny. For well over 80 years, Firestone has operated the world's largest rubber plantation in Harbel, Liberia. Workers on the plantation have long faced incredibly poor living and working conditions. Firestone rubber tappers live in crowded shacks without running water, electricity or indoor latrines and are required to meet an unreasonably high production quota in order to receive their meager pay.
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After a long struggle, workers finally held the first free and fair union election and signed their first contract negotiated by a democratically elected and independent union leadership in August 2008. The agreement was a major step forward in the long struggle of workers to protect their rights. However, since the time the agreement was signed, Firestone management has failed to implement many of the important improvements in the new contract. For example, the new contract reduced the size of the production quota, but many workers throughout the plantation report that they are still being forced to produce at the old quota level which means they must hire subcontractors or use the labor of their family members in order to finish their work and be paid. Firestone has also not fully implemented health and safety improvements in the new contract and has not provided transportation for all of the children on the plantation to access schools as the contract says they should.
It is shameful that after such an important step for these workers who have fought for so long for justice, Firestone is not honoring this historic contract. Firestone talks a lot about their "partnership" with Liberia in their public relations materials, but their actions on the ground look a lot more like broken promises. We need to stand in solidarity with Firestone workers in Liberia to ensure that this company honors its commitments and that the contract results in real positive changes for workers. A victory for Firestone workers will have a major impact in raising working and living conditions for people throughout Liberia as Firestone is the country's largest private investor and many other companies look to Firestone has an example.
So please take action NOW and e-mail the NFL and Firestone by clicking here. Then, tell five friends to join you! And don't forget to let your fellow sports fans know about this campaign at your Super Bowl watching parties.
PS: In other Bridgestone news, the company has been cutting jobs in LaVergne, Tennessee and Noblesville, Indiana. Also, the company was just fined 58.5 million Euros by the European Union for fixing the price of its marine hoses in the international market.