Hundreds of Change.org readers supported workers on the Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia by telling the company to negotiate in good faith with the workers' union and end its burdensome methods of collecting raw latex. According to activists involved in the campaign, the messages from Change.org definitely helped increase pressure on Firestone. The company's initial contract proposal included no wage increases and they resisted updating the transportation system for the buckets of latex. But they eventually agreed to both of these, which were the key demands of the Change.org petition.
In 2010, the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL) signed a new contract with Firestone that includes an agreement to improve the methods for transporting latex on the plantation so that workers will no longer have to carry two buckets weighing 75 pounds each on a stick on their backs for miles. The contract also included wage increases and other improvements.
For their work to eliminate child labor on the plantation while organizing for improvements for all workers and their families, FAWUL was awarded this year's Iqbal Masih Award from the U.S. Department of Labor.
As sports fans gear up for the NFL Super Bowl next week, the Halftime show sponsor, Bridgestone/Firestone, continues to exploit workers on its rubber plantation in Liberia.
The majority of workers who labor as "rubber tappers" must carry two heavy buckets of raw latex weighing 75 pounds each on both ends of a stick on their back for miles. This back-breaking system of transportation has long been left behind by other rubber production companies globally and it's time for Firestone to stop this abuse. It's unacceptable that a tire company has not provided some wheels to workers to help transport rubber.
Firestone workers in Liberia have faced severe abuses for 84 years, but have recently made major advances in securing their rights. After a major organizing campaign, workers finally held the first free and fair union elections on the plantation in 2007 and signed an historic collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2008. (Check out this video for more background)
The union is currently negotiating a new contract with Firestone. This is a crucial opening for workers to finally remove Firestone's heavy load of exploitation from their backs.
Please take a moment to tell Firestone to enter 2010 with a humane system of transporting rubber on its plantation in Liberia!