Superbowl Sponsor’s Foul Play in Liberia

The countdown has begun for Superbowl XLIV! Next Sunday, the New Orleans Saints will play the Indianapolis Colts in the biggest football game of the year. But the Indianapolis-based company that will sponsor the Halftime show for the third year in a row stands accused of some less-than-Saintly behavior.

Bridgestone/Firestone is the largest tire company in the world and it is throwing down millions of dollars once again to be the title sponsor of the Halftime show. Most people don’t know that for over 84 years, the company has exploited workers and the environment on its massive rubber plantation in Liberia.

Most workers on the plantation are “rubber tappers” whose daily work includes dumping small cups of raw latex into buckets that weigh 75 pounds each and then carrying two of those buckets on each end of a stick on their backs for miles. Imagine doing that kind of work all day for years on end. Workers are subjected to extremely high production quotas or else they won’t be given their meager wages. As a result, they have had to bring their children or wives to work with them in order to complete one person’s quota. The physically demanding work and high production quotas combined with low pay and the lack of access many children on the plantation have to education has led to a range of labor rights abuses.

It’s hard to believe that in 2010, the biggest tire company in the world can’t provide trucks or a transportation system on wheels so that workers don’t have to carry the latex in such an archaic fashion. This type of system has long been left behind by other rubber plantations all around the world.

While Firestone workers in Liberia have faced enormous challenges, they are also an inspiring story of how even the most exploited workers can successfully fight for their rights. In 2007, thousands of workers all across the plantation organized to create the first independent and democratically elected union ever for Firestone workers in Liberia -– even has they faced violence and retribution. In 2008, workers ratified an historic contract that included many improvements for workers and their families, but they still had to submit to the burdensome system of carrying Firestone’s heavy load on their backs. Check out this great video about their struggle.

Right now, there is a critical opportunity to finally end this outdated system because the union is currently negotiating a new contract. As consumers and concerned global citizens, let’s tell Bridgestone/Firestone to stop its foul play in Liberia and start respecting workers.

Here are three easy ways to take action right now!:

  1. Send an e-mail to Firestone here;
  2. Spread the word on Twitter by posting a Tweet like this: Take Action @change: Tell #Bridgestone #Firestone to Play Fair in #Liberia! #Superbowl #SB44 @BridgestoneINFO
  3. If you are on Facebook, you can post a comment like this on Bridgestone/Firestones fan page (online here: “Stop exploiting workers in Liberia!″


Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 6:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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