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McDonald’s has just been caught hijacking a program that’s supposed to allow young people to come to the U.S. for cultural exchange programs and professional training. Instead, the fast food giant used it as a source of cheap, exploitable labor.

Students from Latin America and Asia found themselves working at McDonald’s for minimum wage. But their take-home pay was far lower after exorbitant deductions for employer-owned housing. If they quit or were dismissed, they would lose their visas and be deported, a threat their boss constantly dangled over them.

They were sometimes required to work for 25 hours at a time with no overtime. They were housed eight to a room in substandard housing and expected to be ready to turn up for work at any time with only 30 minutes notice. And to add insult to injury, the students paid $3,000 each for the privilege.

But these students aren’t just sitting down and taking the abuse. With the support of the National Guestworker Alliance, many of them walked off the job in protest. And one of the students, Jorge Rios, has launched a petition with our friends atCoworker.org. He writes:

My name is Jorge Rios. I’m a student guestworker from Argentina who came to the U.S. on the State Department’s J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, together with other students from Latin America and Asia.

We paid $3,000-4,000 each to come to the United States on this program, expecting a cultural exchange and good work that would let us earn back this money over three months and travel a bit at the end.

Instead, we became exploited workers at McDonald’s restaurants in Pennsylvania. We had terrible working and housing conditions. We faced threats, stolen wages, grease burns up and down our arms. We were only used to enrich our employer.

When we talked to the U.S. workers alongside us, we learned that they were being exploited too. They told us they also faced too few hours, threats from managers, and unpaid overtime.

This is not the America we believed in. We believe America is a beautiful country, where everyone can have respect and fair treatment at work. We decided to stand up for ourselves, for other J-1 student guestworkers, and for U.S. workers. We respectfully ask that.

These students are taking their campaign on the road. They’re going to New York to meet with the fast food workers who went on strike last year before heading to McDonald’s corporate headquarters outside Chicago to demand a meeting with CEO Don Thompson. All along the way, they’ll be delivering petitions to McDonald’s managers, and the more of us that sign, the bigger the impact will be.

So we need to act now let McDonald’s know that its customers are paying attention to this case and that we’ll hold it accountable if it doesn’t follow through.

 

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More information:

McDonald’s Guest Workers Stage Surprise Strike, The Nation, March 6, 2013
Jorge Rios: McDonald’s Must Pay

(via McDonald’s: Stop exploiting guestworkers! | SumOfUs)
huffingtonpost.com
Will Hotel Giant Stop Hosting 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Events?

A petition from pro-gay organization All Out and SumOfUs is aiming to put pressure on Marriott about the international hotel chain’s polarizing decision to host to the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s (NARTH) “ex-gay” therapy conference. The conference itself is slated to take place next August at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio.

It’s time for world leaders to release the texts of the TPP and TTIP!

Mass graves. Sex trafficking. Forced labor. Our government should want nothing to do with forging economic ties with countries whose economies run off modern day slavery.

But thanks to an appalling move by President Obama, the US is now on our way to signing the super-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership with one of the worst human trafficking offenders, Malaysia.

Congress was on track to ban the US from signing trade deals with the worst of the worst, including Malaysia. Then two days ago, the Obama Administration suddenly announced that Malaysia’s status in the human trafficking report would be “upgraded” in an effort to sidestep Congressional regulation. Meanwhile, almost nothing has changed in Malaysia for people subjected to obscene working conditions.

This is why the TPP needs to be transparent. How can we trust the President that he’s got all of our best interests at heart in negotiating this trade deal, when he pulls shameless ploys like this?

The TPP is almost certainly a disaster waiting to happen, but we don’t know the truth because everything is done behind closed doors. If you’re a corporate lobbyist, you’re invited in, while the rest of us are left in the dark. All we have to go on are the leaked chapters that Wikileaks has shared, which let us know that everything – from our laws to our food to our internet to our medicines – may be put at risk to maximize corporate profits.

President Obama wants us to trust him that this trade deal will be “the most progressive trade deal of all time.” But how can we, when he uses cynical maneuvers to push the TPP forward at the expense of Malaysian people forced to work in slave-like conditions? If he’s willing to do something this offensive, what else is happening inside those closed doors?

Negotiators are signaling that they will almost certainly finalize the TPP when they gather in two weeks at a swanky resort in Hawaii. After that, there’s no more opportunity to change the deal – because our representatives voted to ‘fast track’ the TPP through Congress, they only gave themselves an up or down vote with no option to amend the agreement.

With so little time, and in light of this latest maneuver, we need to massively ramp up our pressure on President Obama and other world leaders to make the deal public.

Add your name and then share this petition far and wide!

Thanks for all you do,
Kaytee and the rest of us

- From an email from SumOfUs

P.S. Campaigners in Malaysia have been standing against trafficking for years. There are some signs of progress. But if the US goes into a trade deal without demanding fast progress and investment in real support for trafficking survivors, then it’s all too easy for the Malaysian government to take their foot off the gas again.

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In fact there is a whole tumblr page dedicated to this here. So check them out and please I urge you to share this and …..

Join the movement, deliver your own letter to your local CVS. 

Humans can live without Krill oil, The Oceans can’t. 

I think everyone should sign up to Change.org or TheSumOfUs and sign petitions whenever they can.

It takes two seconds to sign up, costs nothing and is for a good cause. It makes me feel just that little bit better everyday knowing I’m contributing to something worthwhile just with the click of a button.

Just last week I signed a petition to stop the sales of Angora products in British stores, especially TopShop due to extreme animal cruelty in China where they pluck the rabbits of their fur. We were successful and a lot of shops have agreed to stop, including TopShop. Yay!

youtube

(via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPlxNhEc2lA)