Monday, September 17, 2007

The STOP Firestone Coalition

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

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 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

Tim Newman is Campaigns Assistant at the International Labor Rights Forum.

1 comment:

YTJN said...

Good News...


December 21, 2007

For Immediate Release

Emira Woods,, +1-301-523-2979

Tim Newman,, +1-617-823-9464 or +1-202-347-4100 x113


Firestone encouraged to begin negotiating with new union leaders

After a lengthy strike by workers on a rubber plantation owned by the Firestone Natural Rubber Company in Liberia, the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled today that recent union elections held in July 2007 on the plantation were indeed legitimate. The first free, fair and independent union elections to take place on the plantation in its 81 year history in Liberia ushered in a new union leadership, but the previous company-controlled union challenged the elections through the legal system. The Supreme Court ruling confirmed that the union elections were in fact legitimate as the international election observers and the Firestone workers have been asserting for over five months.

The Stop Firestone Coalition, which includes both U.S. and Liberia-based human rights, labor, environmental and Africa-focused organizations, welcomed the ruling and called on Firestone management to immediately recognize the newly elected union leaders.

Austin Nantee, the newly elected President of the Firestone Agriculture Workers’ Union of Liberia (FAWUL), said, “The Firestone workers are jubilant and are steadfast in their commitment. The workers themselves have realized their power and are looking forward to carving out a new collective bargaining agreement with the company.”

Alfred Brownell, President and founder of the environmental law group Green Advocates in Liberia said, “This is a great Christmas gift and we are looking forward to a new day on the plantation. The Supreme Court has shown a large degree of independence and this is a victory not only for the workers, but also Liberia. The international collective action has produced the results today.”

Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus in the U.S. said, “After 81 years of modern day slavery, the Liberian judiciary has done the right thing to recognize this new union leadership and usher in a new day for the workers in Liberia.”

Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum in the U.S. said, “This is a huge victory for the workers. With the coming of the new year, we hope that Firestone management will resolve to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement in good faith with the new leaders.”

The Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia has been the focus of international scrutiny as well as a lawsuit because of its use of child labor, abuse of worker’s rights and environmental destruction. As a result of its abuses in Liberia, the company was presented with a Public Eye Award for Worst Global Corporation in 2007. A democratic and independent union leadership will help the workers to negotiate conditions which respect their human rights.

The Stop Firestone coalition is a coalition of U.S. and Liberian-based human rights, labor, environmental and Africa-focused organizations working to hold Firestone accountable for its 81 years of exploitation of Liberia. For more information, please visit: