By Tim Newman
In response to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company’s abuses in Liberia, an international coalition of human rights, labor rights, environmental and African solidarity organizations have formed the Stop Firestone Coalition. The coalition is composed of both US and Liberian-based organizations that are in constant contact with each other to develop strategies to hold Firestone accountable.
In the US, we have focused on using the media to increase awareness about Firestone’s use of child labor, abuse of worker’s rights, environmental destruction and unfair tax policies. Since consumers in the US have enormous potential power over corporations based in this country, we have been working to encourage them to show solidarity with communities in Liberia by putting pressure on Firestone to behave ethically.
On July 26, 2006, Liberia’s Independence Day, the Stop Firestone Coalition organized a national day of action where people across the country delivered protest letters to their local Firestone Autocare Centers. This year on July 26th, we sponsored a national call-in day to Firestone headquarters. We are also working on a Stop Firestone Picture Protest where supporters take photos of themselves holding a “Stop Firestone” sign and post them online. The photos will then be delivered to Firestone headquarters (more info is available at http://stopfirestone.org/pictureprotest.htm).
In between these days of action, we have organized a number of e-mail actions and used online technologies to do outreach to new supporters. Additionally, we have also been increasing our outreach to organizations in Japan, where Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone, is based.
Firestone wins Public Eye Award
In January of 2007, based on the nomination by the International Labor Rights Forum and Friends of the Earth-US, Firestone was awarded the Public Eye Award for Worst Global Corporation. This annual award presented by Swiss NGOs opposite the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland helped to boost the international awareness of the campaign. Alfred Brownell of the Liberian environmental law group, Green Advocates, was there to accept the award on behalf of the coalition.
Union Elections and Court Case Success
Two big victories in the campaign came recently when a new democratic, independent leadership of the union representing Firestone rubber tappers (the first in Firestone’s 81 year history in Liberia) was voted in on July 8, 2007. Additionally, the judge in a lawsuit filed by the International Labor Rights Forum against Firestone in US courts rejected Firestone’s motion to dismiss the case and gave an order for the case to move forward on child labor claims.
A Role for Young People
Young people around the world play a particularly important role in this campaign. Since Firestone is directly exploiting youth and denying young people of their right to education, students in other countries can remind the company and their own communities how important educational opportunities are for the future. Getting involved in an intergenerational corporate campaign can also be a crucial entry point for young people into the global justice movement. By collaborating with a broad range of organizations and networks on a campaign like the Stop Firestone campaign, young people can learn valuable organizing skills and provide new and creative ideas for more seasoned campaigners.
While important gains have been made, there is still much work to be done in the campaign. It is our belief that by coordinating closely with our partners in Liberia and bringing together groups from a wide range of issue areas that we can increase the pressure on Firestone and institute real change for workers.
Visit the campaign at www.stopfirestone.org and take action! If you're a student and want to get involved, check out the student action kit. Also feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com.
Tim Newman is Campaigns Assistant at the International Labor Rights Forum.