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

Issue #10

King County

Theo Chocolate disputes ‘union-busting’ allegations in recently published ILRF report

The ILRF report

In a 24-page report titled “Aiding & Abetting: How Unaccountable Fair Trade Certifiers Are Destroying Workers’ Rights”, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) details a 2010 chain of events in which it claims Seattle’s Theo Chocolate violated U.S. and international labor standards during a Teamsters Local 117 organizing campaign – allegations Theo strongly denies. The ILRF report specifically targets the methods and practices used by the Institute for Market Ecology (IMF) in awarding Theo the organization’s “Fair for Life” fair trade distinction. ILRF cites Theo’s alleged union-busting techniques to question the validity of such certifications – as the name of the report implies. Seattle Weekly, 2-13-13.

Police surveillance cameras: Council committee to discuss Feb. 20

The southernmost camera.

The Seattle City Council committee that first approved receiving a federal grant for the surveillance cameras that are going up in West Seattle and elsewhere will take another look at it next week. That’s what Council member Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Technology, and Civil Rights Committee (and a candidate for mayor), told WSB late today. The 30-camera network is planned to stretch from Golden Gardens in Ballard southward to the camera in the photo, next to the Fauntleroy ferry dock. West Seattle Blog, 2-14-13.

Op-ed: Port of Seattle: The gang that can’t shoot straight


Commissioner Rob Holland’s sudden resignation caps a year of pratfalls at the Port. The selection process is flawed, even as the stakes get higher at this key institution. So says Crosscut editor-in-chief David Brewster, the godfather of Seattle old-money elitism, with barely disguised contempt for the electoral process. Brewster would prefer that the Governor appoint “high-profile civic leaders” (he uses that term several times; it’s code for people like himself) who presumably would not do anything so … unseemly … as becoming pregnant. Crosscut, 2-14-13.

Three City Council members want shorter Vulcan towers


Vulcan towers near Lake Union should be shorter and slimmer than proposed, said three Seattle City Council members in a joint statement Thursday. Nick Licata, Tom Rasmussen and Sally Bagshaw said they want Vulcan’s three proposed towers limited to 160 feet, or roughly 16 stories, not the 240 feet, or 24 stories, proposed by Mayor Mike McGinn. Licata said a majority of the nine-member council will probably support the proposal. Three 160-foot towers would provide better public views of Lake Union and less shadowing on Lake Union Park, Licata said. Seattle Times, 2-14-13.

State Rep. Eileen Cody wins national award from AMA

Rep. Cody with (at left) Terry Moran of ABC News and AMA Board Chair Steven J. Stack, M.D.)

State Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34), who chairs the State House committee overseeing health-care issues and is a nurse by profession, Wednesday received the American Medical Association’s Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service, its top award for government service in health care. Rep. Cody was honored with the award Wednesday night at the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. West Seattle Blog, 2-14-13.

Crisis in Pacific: Small police force stretched


Pacific residents came to Monday’s City Council meeting expecting to give the council and Mayor Cy Sun an earful about low staffing levels in the police department. But before people could vent their anger at Sun for his refusal to hire more police officers, he walked out, upset by the council’s decision to strike two ordinances and an appointment to the city’s civil service commission that he had put on the agenda. Citing Sun’s negligence in clearing the items with it first, the council removed them. Exit Sun, to catcalls from the audience. Auburn Reporter, 2-14-13.

The State

Labyrinth: Reardon staff linked to harassment, surveillance

“County Confidential,” “Thomas & French” and “Clowns at Midnight” — Tumblr sites with political content and literary allusions — can be traced to members of Aaron Reardon’s staff.


He crusaded on behalf of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon for more than a year. He built a digital maze, a series of blind alleys that guarded his various identities. And for a literary touch, he borrowed names from fiction: a classic French novel, a Spanish mystery series and an Australian horror story. Inadvertently, however, he left gaps in his strategy. He’d sent the Washington State Patrol emails that demonstrated an interest in the early stages of the Reardon investigation. Those messages came from a particular electronic address with a distinct name. That name can be traced to a company, a real one that is registered with the state. And state records say the company belongs to Reardon aide Kevin Hulten and a co-worker, Jon Rudicil. Everett Herald, 2-14-13. (This story should contend for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting.)

Inslee describes $122 million plan for jobs


Gov. Jay Inslee laid out a $122 million jobs plan Wednesday, outlining several pieces of his 2012 campaign’s “75-point jobs plan” meant to spur job creation in the Evergreen State. The proposals are heavy on tax breaks, streamlining permitting for businesses, and major capital investments in clean energy, including a research center for biofuels at Washington State University. He also is pitching a slew of small-size education programs meant to train more skilled workers needed by the aerospace industry, part of a plan to “align” education with the needs of new or growing industries. Olympian, 2-14-13.

Scaled-down background checks don’t satisfy gun-bill critics

Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43), prime sponsor of HB 1588.

A contentious state House hearing on whether to require background checks for all gun purchases drew police officers, shooting victims, religious leaders, gun owners and Second Amendment activists to the Capitol Wednesday. HB 1588, proposed mostly by Democrats, would require background checks for all firearm purchases. Currently, licensed dealers are required to do the checks, but private sellers are not. In the contentious two-hour hearing, a couple dozen gun owners and Second Amendment activists described the bill as ineffective, unnecessary and unfair. Seattle Times, 2-13-13.

Bill guts Gambling Commission, hands power to the Legislature – and cardroom operators smell a rat

A bill that would gut the power of the state Gambling Commission and place most gaming decisions before the Legislature seems to demonstrate the growing ability of Indian tribes to win friends and influence people. Sponsors of HB 1295 say they just want to make sure the Legislature can stop the expansion of gambling, by stripping the state Gambling Commission of its authority to approve new games, raise betting limits and make other rules regarding non-Indian gambling. Yet by clamping down on a small and shrinking segment of the gambling biz — the state’s cardrooms, pulltab sellers, and charitable operators — the bill certainly seems to give an advantage to the Indian casinos that already have captured 79 percent of Washington state’s gambling revenue. The bill doesn’t affect the tribes. Washington State Wire, 2-14-13. (Washington State Wire’s Erik Smith and many of his fellow conservatives agree that Native Americans should not have any political power. Unfortunately for them, this bill enjoys wide bipartisan support.)

Schools at bottom of class for open government

Sunshine Review released its annual government transparency report, and Washington scored well. In general, states do a better job than counties and cities, which do a better job than school districts, at being open about their business. Scores were based in part on whether a government posted its budget, its meeting schedule and agendas, contracts with private individuals/firms, and contact information for *all* officials. In my experience, school district websites are in fact the worst. In 10 years of reporting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a district post its budget online. Some districts, especially the small ones, don’t post (or make it very hard to find) something as basic as the phone number for individual schools (never mind phone numbers and emails for teachers). School levies make up a significant chunk of our property taxes; I haven’t seen districts post how those levy dollars are being used (except maybe during levy election season). Ralph Schwartz, Bellingham Herald, 2-12-13.

The Nation

The Republican immigration dilemma

Tuesday night, the three major political parties all seemed to agree: it’s time for comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama said so in his State of the Union address. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said so in his tortured Republican response. Even Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said so in the Tea Party’s two cents’ worth. Then, on Wednesday, Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, making the case for reform legislation now. She got an earful from Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and John Cornyn (R-TX). Apparently these senators had not received the immigration unanimity memo. But the stars have been lining up strikingly for comprehensive reform for months. New Yorker, 2-14-13.

The man and the thinking behind the minimum wage hike

Alan Krueger shakes hands with President Barack Obama after announcing his nomination in August 2011 as chairman of White House Council of Economic Advisers.

President Obama is pushing a controversial hike in the minimum wage. It is surely no coincidence that his chief economic advisor is Alan Krueger, an economist who became famous in the 1990s for research supporting minimum wage hikes. But don’t higher wages mean fewer jobs? Krueger explains at length why they don’t. PBS Newshour, 2-14-13.

Welcome to Bizarro World, Mr. President

Fred Klonsky

President Barack Obama comes to Chicago today. Welcome to Bizarro World, Mr. President. His stop was originally planned as part of a three-day post State of the Union tour to speak about the economy. The national scandal that the level of violence in his hometown has become has changed those plans somewhat. Fred Klonsky Blog, 2-15-13.

To Think About

Brentin Mock

Desmond Meade stood with his wife on the National Mall on Inauguration Day, listening to a speech delivered by a president he did not vote for. But he followed attentively, hoping to hear just a few words that might address a man like himself: African-American, one-time homeless, recovered from substance abuse, and formerly incarcerated. His felony status kept him from voting for Obama, because as a Florida citizen he is not eligible to vote at all. He would leave D.C. disappointed, not only because he heard nothing about felony disenfranchisement, but he also heard nothing from Obama about the unique problems that affect black men. Since Obama didn’t, Meade is saying something, organizing in Florida on behalf of the 1.5 million people in the state who can’t vote due to felony convictions. Brentin Mock, The Nation, reprinted in Truth-Out, 2-14-13.

Issue #10 was originally published on King County Democrats

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