FOX TV Reports: Students Rally Against Reynolds and Call on Walmart to Immediately Stop Selling Reynolds Products: Binghamton, NY
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Over 100 women worked for years in Pactiv Corporation’s New Jersey factory – owned by Reynolds Group Holdings and its boss, Graeme Hart – one of the richest men in the world. They were worked near to death in sweltering sweatshop conditions. The majority of the work was packing boxes of plastic containers for shipment to major retailers such as Walmart and Costco.
When more than two dozen Chinese and Latina women spoke out and organized, the Pactiv Corporation retaliated: doubling and tripling their work and not even letting women use the bathroom, despite workers’ worsening health conditions. Then Pactiv fired about 60% of the packers and dumped all of the remaining workload on the workers they didn’t fire. At the factory, the problem was not LACK of work, it was OVERWORK.
The fired workers are not backing down. They are determined to hold Pactiv and Reynolds Group accountable for their retaliation against the workers who organized for better working conditions.
We call upon your organization to join the Pactiv workers and the Ain’t I A Woman?! Campaign to change the sweatshop system in this country that has us all chained — whether we are factory, retail, restaurant, public or office workers. It is important for workers to come together to fight against forced overtime.
- The right to take bathroom breaks.
- The right to sick days and parental leave.
- The right to speak out and organize without retaliation.
- Reinstatement with back pay for those laid-off or fired.
- The right to a 40-hour work week and no mandatory overtime.
The National Organization for Women, NYC, Awards Ain’t I a Woman!? with the 31st Annual Susan B. Anthony Awards
The NOW-NYC Susan B. Anthony Awards honors grassroots activists dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls and advancing equality. In recognition of the 100-Year Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire where 146 workers perished, this year’s celebration honors women workers organizing for change in New York.
Workers who produced clothing for the manufacturers Liberty Apparel and Great Wall won despite the efforts of their employers to hide behind the sub-contracting system. Weak laws enabled the manufacturer Liberty Apparel to drag out the case for 10 years.
Many of these workers were often forced to work more than 100 hours a week to finish the manufacturers’ orders. Their successful battle against these sweatshop conditions have inspired many other workers, such as the Asian and Latino workers of Cache, to demand the companies reaping the most benefit off their labor are held responsible. Moreover, they have sparked the interest of lawmakers such as Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez to draft legislative changes to strengthen the accountability of garment manufacturers and retailers.
The call for garment manufacturer accountability now has implications for more of us now. Our working conditions are getting worse as subcontracting expands in many industries—construction, cleaning, education, law, freelancing and more.
President Obama’s health care bill will encourage even more subcontracting as a way for businesses to avoid having to pay for health insurance. The President’s plan will leverage fines for failure to provide health insurance only on businesses with 50 or more employees. More of us stand to lose health coverage and other benefits.
We can’t afford to wait. Together let’s build upon the Liberty Apparel and Great Wall workers’ victories to ensure that those benefiting the most off of sweatshop labor are held accountable. Join us in launching a national call for manufacturer and retailer accountability for the sweatshop conditions of their sub-contractors.
“Now, after 10 years, we have finally won our court case. As subcontracting is expanding across industries, this victory is an opportunity to hold all manufacturers accountable so workers do not have to go through what we did to get justice.” – Ling Nan, Liberty Apparel worker
What Can You Do?
- Join the Ain’t I a Woman?! Organizing committee
- Get your organization to endorse the Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign
- Demand stronger manufacturer accountability legislation
- Invite us to speak at your school or organization
- Donate to the Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign (c/o NMASS, P.O. Box 130293, N.Y., N.Y. 10013)
For more information, contact the National Mobilization Against SweatShops at (212) 358-0295.
Who Benefits the Most from Subcontracting? The Cache Example:
Sub-contracting is a system in which large entities contract out its work to smaller companies or individuals to sweat as much profit out of workers as possible and avoid responsibility for the abuses of these employees. Following is an example of how this works in the garment industry with the Cache garment case.
Apparel manufacturing today is a $10 billion annual business in New York. For instance, multi-national retailer Cache alone rakes in over $100 million in pure profits each year. Like other retailers, Cache in recent years merged with its manufacturer to consolidate at the top, increasing control over design, distribution and production.
Since 2003, the workers’ factory received the majority of work from manufacturer Adrienne Victoria Designs that worked almost exclusively for Cache until 2007, when Cache bought out and merged with Adrienne Victoria Designs. Manufacturers take orders from designers and retailers, and then contract with factories to produce the clothing. Through this process, manufacturers inherently promote sweatshop factories that bid the lowest amount, regardless of whether it is enough to pay workers minimum wage in order to produce it.
Through over 13 years, the workers witnessed the factory would often change names in order to evade responsibility for labor violations, thereby preventing the manufacturer from also being held liable. Nevertheless, Cache routinely sent ‘independent’ monitors to investigate the conditions in the factory. Cache even paid workers in checks for violations they found, yet to this day they still do business with the factory.
Workers were paid less than a dollar to sew blouses and dresses with a retail price tag of about $200. In 2001, the garment manufacturing industry in New York City alone accounted for nearly 100,000 jobs in the fashion industry. Through the years, due to the lack of accountability in the industry, workers are not even able to survive on such low wages. As a result, only 24,000 garment workers remain in the New York City apparel manufacturing industry.
Typically consumers are seen at the top of the pyramid, as if what we buy or don’t buy has the most power. We also think that cheaper labor means cheaper prices for us. But cheaper labor just means greater profit for the manufacturers and retailers. And who are we? Most people buying sweatshop clothing are also working people. While we might not work in garment sweatshops, we still do not have control of our time. Rather than passively boycott as consumers, we must see our power as working people and launch a pro-active campaign to eliminate sweatshops.
 See “Made in Midtown”; http://www.madeinmidtown.org/#modules/summary-group/60-second-summary
 See Cache, Inc. Schedule 10-K annual investors report; http://www.cache.com/cache/control/aboutus-fin-reports