Tim Newman, Campaigns Director, International Labor Rights Forum
After ILRF and our campaign partners launched a new e-mail campaign targeting Bridgestone/Firestone for its abuses of worker rights on its rubber plantation in Liberia, the company sent an e-mail response to the activists who participated in the campaign.
Our recent e-mail campaign focused specifically on one issue: the system under which workers must carry two heavy buckets of raw latex weighing 75 pounds each on both ends of a stick on their back for miles – day after day. Unfortunately, Firestone did little to respond to this specific abuse of workers in their response to our e-mail campaign.
In one part of Firestone's response, the company stated, "The work Firestone's agricultural employees do is typical of the work that goes on in the fields and farms across Africa and the rest of the world." This type of work system is not typical of other rubber plantations globally where workers often do have access to trucks, wagons or other means of transporting heavy loads. It is unacceptable that the world's largest tire company refuses to provide some kind of transportation on wheels to ease the burden on workers. Additionally, even if this were typical work, Firestone should set a higher standard for working conditions that respects the human rights of workers and does not cause them injury. If Firestone were serious about "ensur[ing] employees have safe working conditions and use proven, safe methods to tap rubber trees and collect the latex" as they say they are then they would not make workers carry latex in this manner.
Firestone is correct that "the amount of work that each employee is expected to complete, as well as the conditions of that work, is established through negotiations between the company and FAWUL [the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia." In fact, FAWUL and the company are negotiating a new contract right now. Consumers around the world who e-mailed Firestone are encouraging Firestone to use these negotiations as an opportunity to finally end the exploitative and unpopular system of transporting latex on the plantation.
We expect Firestone to continue to negotiate with the union in good faith. We encourage the company management to take a leadership role in implementing safer and less burdensome systems for workers.
Meanwhile, however, the company is sponsoring the Superbowl Halftime show this Sunday for the third year in a row (a deal believed to cost $10 million) instead of investing money in working systems that don't dehumanize workers. We know that Firestone is hearing our message, but we need to increase our actions in order to win improvements for workers.
In the lead-up to the Superbowl, you can take action in a few easy ways:
- Send an e-mail to Firestone here;
- Ask 5 friends to join you;
- Post this message on Twitter: "@BridgestoneINFO @NFL #Superbowl #Halftime sponsor #Bridgestone #Firestone: Stop exploiting workers in #Liberia! http://bit.ly/8taTuu #SB44"
- Post the link to the e-mail action on any social networking websites you use: http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/Firestone2010