|homesubscribecurrent issueabout D&Ssearch|
The sidewalk in front of a BankBoston office played host to a "Carnival Against Capital" in June to protest at a meeting of eight of the world’s most powerful nations (G-8) in Cologne, Germany. In street theater, a "Zapatista" sprayed "bankers" representing "FleeceBoston" with a can of "Greedo." Many of the 200 onlookers were bank employees.
The small Boston protest was only one action of many coordinated by e-mail in the world’s financial centers during the G-8 meetings on June 18. In Washington D.C., 600 demonstrators formed a human chain around the U.S. Treasury Department. In New York City, 500 costumed protesters rallied in New York’s financial district.
San Francisco hosted what was probably the largest U.S. protest, with over 700 people participating in a festival of resistance. After a GAP sweatshop worker from Saipan spoke, demonstrators pied a puppet of GAP CEO Donald Fischer. Street theater outside Victoria’s Secret depicted the company’s use of sweatshops and sexist marketing, and Colorado steelworkers protested in front of Wells Fargo Bank, which bankrolled a union-busting effort against its workers.
In Eugene, Oregon, eight police were injured and 20 arrests made in a protest turned riot. Eugene Peaceworks organized the demonstration as a nonviolent affair, but the tone shifted after police arrested a protester who scaled a U.S. Bank sign and put his fist through it.
The world’s largest protest was in London, where some among the thousands of demonstrators set one bank aflame, attacked a McDonalds, car showrooms, banks, and the Futures Exchange. The protest began with 250 cyclists stalling traffic. Immediately after the protest, London’s Lord Mayor met with corporate chiefs and bankers to assure them there was no need to move the financial industry out of the city, according to The Financial Times. — Sean Fenley
In the past year, student protests nationwide forced many universities to include a code of conduct in contracts for producing school mugs, sweatshirts and other items carrying the school’s insignia. The codes demand full disclosure and independent monitoring of the working conditions, a living wage, and respect for the right of workers to organize.
Now students want to make the concessions they won from their administrators meaningful, and figure out what to do about the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the new monitoring organization. In June, antisweatshop activists from over 150 colleges and universities gathered at the United States Student Association conference in Washington, D.C. to strategize for the fall, and actively search for effective alternatives to the FLA.
They’re angered by the enthusiasm and speed with which university administrators, usually the same ones who initially opposed any code of conduct are signing on to the FLA. A nonprofit that grew out of the White House-inspired Apparel Industry Partnership, the FLA will set minimum standards and focus solely on monitoring the apparel and footwear industries.
Evaluating the FLA at face value, one might assume it is exactly what antisweatshop activists are clamoring for. But the FLA is also the perfect way for corporations to go through the motions and dissipate popular disapproval without enacting real changes. The FLA is financed primarily by the corporations it purports to monitor, does not include living wage provisions, certifies companies as a whole (rather than factory by factory), provides for inadequate monitoring (only 30% of a corporation’s factories) by inappropriate institutions (Wall Street accounting firms), and provides for virtually no labor or environmental input.
More aware of the nefarious role that many of their distinguished institutions of higher learning play in the world, students are also demanding their universities live up to their reputations by behaving civilly during labor disputes, signing labor/environment friendly contracts, investing socially responsibly, and fighting off corporate influence on campus.
Contact: United Students Against Sweatshops, .
— Josh Glasstetter, Cornell University
Issue #225, September-October 1999
Copyright © 2002 Economic Affairs Bureau, Inc.