As families around the world prepare to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday season, the International Labor Rights Forum has released this year’s Working for Scrooge, a report profiling the worst multinational corporations for union organizing. The companies that made our Scrooge list this year are Dole, Hershey’s, Philippine Airlines, and Wal-Mart.

The right to freedom of association is typically violated through the use of bullying tactics and the spread of anti-union propaganda but this year’s Scrooges have taken violating workers’ rights to new lows. The 2011 Scrooge corporations’ violations include intimidating workers with severe threats, standing by while subcontractors aggressively suppress worker organizing, collaborating with military forces to undermine democratically elected union leaders, illegally firing thousands of workers, exploiting foreign exchange students, and turning a blind eye to forced child labor in the supply chain.

As we celebrate the holiday season, you can support workers by calling on the Scrooges to respect workers’ rights:

Bread and Roses

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

—James Oppenheim, 1911

While garment workers’ struggles are ongoing, the lessons of the strike ring true today: when workers fearlessly stand up for their rights and receive solidarity support from the broader community when necessary, they can win change.

Burned alive, making JC Penney clothes

Nearly one year ago, a tragic and preventable fire at a factory in Bangladesh claimed the lives of 30 workers — workers who spent their days making clothes for several American companies, including Abercrombie, Gap, and JC Penney.

Last January, 65,000 members signed a petition asking seven companies to provide just compensation to the families who lost their loved ones in this fire — a fire that could have been averted had the factory adhered to rigorous safety standards.

That petition worked. All seven companies agreed to compensate the families of the workers who died in the fire, and negotiations are underway right now. But now JC Penney has gone back on its promise to help — its team has walked away from the negotiating table.

The International Labor Rights Forum is the organization that’s taken the lead on this campaign from the beginning — back in January, ILRF organizers told us that the petition was crucial in pressuring all seven companies to commit to fairly compensate the victims’ families and take meaningful steps toward fire safety. That’s why the ILRF has started another petition on asking JC Penney to follow through on its promise and return to negotiations. Please sign the petition today.

These companies are terrified of bad public relations, and they know that a petition on with thousands of signatures is a powerful tool in the media. After the previous petition gained 65,000 signatures, a spokesperson from Target said this us: "I want to understand what we have to do to get our brand off the petition … Tell me what we need to do, and we will try to do it."

The only reason JC Penney is walking away from negotiations now is that they think no one will notice. They got their good press by promising to help, and now they’re breaking their word, free and clear. It’s imperative that we show them — and the other six companies still negotiating — that if they don’t follow through on their promise to fairly compensate the victims’ families and improve their fire safety, there will be consequences.

Please sign the petition today to tell JC Penney to return to negotiations and keep their promise to compensate the families of the workers who burned to death in a preventable fire:

Thanks for being a change-maker,

- Amanda and the team

Watch on
Kalpona Akter risks life exposing deadly working conditions in Bangladesh factories making US clothes. Watch the video. Sign the Petition. 

Washington, DC —   On the second day of the 2011 Annual Review of Country Practices conducted by the US Trade Representative for the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the Secretary-General of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), refuted claims of the Philippine government representatives that it has done a lot to resolve the trade union killings.  

Josua Mata, testifying early this morning (11:00 AM January 25, EST), stated that  “Truth is, two years after the visit of the ILO High Level Mission, none of the trade union killings have received justice. Of the 39 cases filed before the ILO, only 3 are currently on trial, and all of them involve only the hired guns, not the real masterminds who are most likely back home right now sitting in their comfortable corporate offices!  In the meantime, according to the ITUC Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, 6 trade unionists have been killed from 2010 to 2011. All these have happened under the current administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.”

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) delegation to Washington, DC included Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Labor Undersecretary Rebecca Chato, and Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.

“Before we say that the new guidelines with PNP and AFP are working, show us the proof that PNP and AFP violations are no longer happening, or at least are actually going down,” testified Mata.  He recommended that clear benchmarks be set by the government to say that the reforms made are actually working.   The hearing took up the Philippine case filed by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) in view of the trade union killings.

Mata also supported assertions by PALEA’s President Gerry Rivera on the first day about the rampant use and abuse of contractual labor in the country, which prevents workers’ from actually enjoying their rights, including their right to join unions.  He cited two cases, that of Philippine Airlines and of Hanjin Shipping.  “Of the 21,000 workers (Hanjin) now employs, all of them are contractual employees who are hired by 16 subcontractors, (and) many of these companies, have interlocking directorates with the same officials of Hanjin,” testified Mata.  

APL demanded for an independent investigating body that can really go after the military and the police who are involved in TU violations.  “For a long time, DOJ didn’t bother to do anything about it until this GSP review hearing came,” added Mata in reply to panel questions.

The panel, chaired by the USTR, included representatives from the US Department of Labor, Treasury and Agriculture.  The GSP is a development tool used by the US to provide duty-free access to certain products of developing countries that are eligible for this program. The GSP law enumerates the factors for eligibility, which includes that a country “has taken or is taking steps to afford to workers in that country internationally recognized worker rights.”

Contact Persons:  Josua Mata (APL), +63 91768235326,  Brian Campbell (ILRF) +1 202 701 3021