Friday, 2 November 2007


Recycle Gap clothes

Although I am disgusted at the fact that yet another high street store has proved the pressure for increasing profits has ensured the wage enslavement of children (The Herald, October 29) I am annoyed that it has proposed destruction of the garments produced.

Rather than wasting these clothes and adding to the carbons in our air through the use of incinerators, would it not be a better idea for Gap to consult with a children's charity and for the clothes to be distributed among those who need them?

We are failing the children of the world by our push for profits and cheap, throwaway goods. All of the legislation in the land will not protect children unless real sanctions are applied to companies that use vendors who are not properly investigated using standard criteria. Scottish hotels and other businesses would not employ foreign nationals without certain checks. Western corporations should not be allowed to exploit the child poverty in developing countries and, if they have been proven to be lax, should have stiff financial penalties imposed.

Rank and File postie site

Friday, 12 October 2007

Independent on Sunday: 30 September 2007

Corporate Social Responsibility
Black gold turns grey as Western giants prepare to draw from the wells

Friday, 5 October 2007

No Sweat Annual Conference

No Sweat Annual Conference

Start: 01/12/2007 - 11:30am
End: 02/12/2007 - 3:00pm

It's time again for the annual gathering. This year, there will be the following sessions:

Red Politics or Product Red? - How to Take on Exploitation (Discussion)
Taking on Water Privatisation and Child Labour in India (Slideshow and talk by Richard Whittle, author and activist)
China the Olympics and Human and Workers Rights (Discussion with TUC, Amnesty International & Playfair)
Christmas High Street Campaigning (Ideas and planning with No Sweat & Labour Behind the Label)
London Olympics and Workers' Rights (UNITE construction worker activist speaks)
Migrant Workers Speak (GMB & UNITE migrant worker activists tell their story)
Iran on the Brink (Discussion - Iranian activists share their perspectives)
The Corporate Plunder of Iraq (Film and discussion with Iraqi trade unionist and anti privatisation activist)
Black Gold (Film showing and discussion)

Springburn CWU Picket Oct 4th

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Organising fast food workers

Mike Kyriazopolous interviews Jared Phillips, a Unite Fast Food Organiser and Workers Party activist in New Zealand.

MK: How did Unite plan its organising in fast food?

JP: The background is that Unite went from being an unemployed or community union to being a low paid workers’ union. Inroads started in the hotels, Sky City Casino, etc. There were plans to unionise the café industry but the real companies dominant in the service sector are the large brands or chains in the fast food and café industry. The first real campaign here was the Burger King campaign in Auckland which kicked off around 2003/4. However, BK was the last company of the big five that we managed to get a deal with.

Unite organises in BK, McDonalds, Wendy’s and Red Rooster as well as the cinemas. But with Starbucks what we’re talking about is KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks which comprises Restaurant Brands Ltd NZ.

The general approach when going for the big chains had to be a mass one – you need quite a large campaign team routinely visiting sites and building a mass membership, rather than trying to get militants in the store who are “secret”. I think Unite found that militancy came from the mass, not the other way around, as some suggest is the right way to organise in conditions of victimization.

With Starbucks specifically, how much headway have you made?

The structure of the company is you have an area manager with a cluster of five or six Starbucks. Within each store you have a manager, a few assistant managers or shift supervisors. So this is the same as the fast-food structure.

As with the other fast food stores, we negotiated an access protocol. With Restaurants Brands we can basically visit at any time except 12 - 2pm and 5.30 - 8am and 5 - 8pm . We talk to employees one-by-one.

With Starbucks, with some employees, there has been a problem of low wage affluence. Some of the employees see themselves as being above fast food workers because they make coffee. But their wages were actually very low. Now, because of the activity of the union, they are actually getting something nearer to a living wage, if not a living wage. Also another trend in the last couple of years is that all the gas stations are now serving proper coffee, so the higher skill attitude of some of the barristas might start to go.

How did the SupersizeMyPay campaign fit in?

Supersize was a political campaign and an industrial campaign. The main demands were for a $12/ hour minimum wage, abolish youth rates, and security of hours. We made inroads on all of those things. The organisers took those demands out everywhere. It did play a real unifying role in having an industry-wide campaign.

What was the proportion of paid to unpaid organisers involved in getting the campaign off the ground?

Most people in Auckland were getting some sort of pay. But it’s only this year that we’ve been able to employ full time organisers in Wellington and Christchurch . At the start there was a lot of volunteer blood and sweat in setting up Unite. They started with nothing. They ran out of cash at one stage, and then a housekeeper who had left another union gave her redundancy to Unite. But there were a lot of semi-paid volunteers and volunteers in the early period.

Who were the volunteers?

Firstly rank and file militants who had been burnt by other unions, then socialists or communists and anarchists and also, quite importantly, some Maori Sovereignty activists. Also, quite importantly, the unite leadership was formerly involved in the social democratic Alliance Party.

How long was it before you were able to establish delegate structures?

We’re still doing that! It’s been a huge struggle, and we’re still debating how best to do it. This is really a question of organising in the new growth industries as well. You can’t expect to see your delegate when you go on site to do your site visits, ’cos you turn up and there’s like a one in 14 possibility that it’s a shift that your delegate’s on.

I personally advocate the setting up of committees of two-three-four people in each store. In principle they should be elected, but at this early stage, natural leaders just emerge. If We’re trying to build for a really big Restaurant Workers Conference; we want about 175 people from the industry.

How has the Employment Relations Act helped or hindered your organising?

Strikes are illegal outside of the negotiating period. This is a very real shackle which forces us into grievance proceedings to deal with problems, and we are not strong enough to challenge the anti-strike legislation in a front-on way. There was a right to strike campaign a few years ago, but there wasn’t the groundswell of struggle required to bring it through in any meaningful way.

Sometimes I get sick to fuck with people just parroting about the right to strike without addressing what are the problems caused by the inhibiting of strikes in the industry. We are always dealing with casework. Every day, workers have hours stolen, time records adjusted, bullying is rife, incorrect pay, etc, all of this is just ongoing. My impression is that there is a much higher ratio of casework in this industry than the more traditional and secure industries. We get caught up in mediation with so-called “good faith” and so on.

Aside from the negotiating periods, in which there have been many lightening strikes (two to three hour strikes), there has been some other industrial action, for example, a wildcat strike we only found out about after the event. It was at a Starbucks store in fact. Four workers shut the store down for about five hours because of bullying. They just put a sign on the door saying “Closed because of strike action”! It was really awesome, cos these people were all really young – aged about 20 or younger – and they didn’t have enough understanding of the Employment Relations Act, and the fact that the activity, being post-negotiation, was illegal. This really brought the issues to the fore much quicker than a personal grievance. We couldn’t formally endorse that strike, but we did go out and handle their disciplinaries and gave them a whole bunch of t-shirts and badges and all the rest of it!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Uk Report on Starbucks ' protest

UK action against Starbucks

IWW organizing expands throughout UK, Europe.

By Diane Krauthamer

On August 18, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and No Sweat held a successful National Day of Action against Starbucks, with demonstrations in ten cities throughout the UK, including Glasgow, Leeds, Edinburgh, Leicester and London.

Keywords: Starbucks Union, National, Human Rights, Labor, Corporations,

London protest
Despite Starbucks’ international union-busting attempts, workers and their supporters are telling the company that they are not backing down. Increased organizing and support is growing like wildfire throughout Europe and the U.S., and this past weekend proved once again that the struggle is far from over.

On August 18, 2007, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and No Sweat held a successful National Day of Action against Starbucks, with demonstrations in ten cities across the UK, including Glasgow, Leeds, Edinburgh, Leicester and London.

Although the company has more than 500 stores with over 5,000 workers and continues to expand in the UK, management is growing nervous as negative publicity surrounding their unfair labor practices increases regionally.

In London, small groups spent the morning distributing informational leaflets to baristas at both Starbucks and Caffé Nero, another major UK coffee chain with working conditions that parallel those of Starbucks. Starbucks baristas are paid just above the minimum wage and are subject to excessive working hours and unpaid overtime. Additionally, baristas must work at a relentless pace, resulting in repetitive strain injuries.

By 2 PM, the groups convened in front of the New Oxford Street Starbucks, a busy shopping district in the central city. More than 30 people spent the windy Saturday afternoon protesting and distributing information to customers, workers and onlookers. In addition to the dozens of protesters, undercover police officers and regional management also made a presence at the event. Two police officers were spotted across the street from the demo, illegally taking photos of individuals from the IWW and No Sweat.

One of the managers, wearing a beige sweater as a feeble attempt to conceal his company t-shirt, sat inside the store “reading a newspaper” while keeping the protest under surveillance. When I asked him if he was there to protest, he said he just wanted to make sure that nothing would “get out of hand.” He admitted that the company had already known about the protest beforehand, despite the fact that the protest location was only communicated over email, and not made public.

The manager asked if we were planning any other demonstrations, and when everyone packed up to go home, he followed the group down the street.

As Starbucks' headquarters in Seattle is advising regional management in the UK to embark on campaigns of surveillance and intimidation—as they have done in the U.S., France and Germany—workers are not backing down. Many baristas showed interest in joining the union, and many potential customers turned away from the store when they received information about the company’s practices. Continued harassment is evidence that the company who sets the world's coffee industry standard feels threatened by the power of radical unionizing and solidarity that continues to expand across international borders

By Diane Krauthamer

Monday, 20 August 2007

Glasgow Starbucks protest

Good protest around the starbucks stores on saturday
in spite of the rain.
Rattled some of the managers and i think got some of
the workers thinking about the issues of unionisation
and starbucks not being the company it makes itself out to be.
Think next time the coffe sirens film should be distributed
to more workers and we should ask to meet up with individuals
to discuss the issues raised in the film.


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Starbucks Glasgow Sat 18th

Joint No Sweat /IWW UK Wide protest Sat 18th

Meet outside Starbucks this Saturday at foot of Sauchiehall street 1pm .

Leaflets above -make copies and bring.

Perhaps Edinburgh Comrades could organise a protest at Starbucks

there ?


Sunday, 5 August 2007

Starbucks Briefing

No Sweat Scotland and the IWW are organising a protest in Glasgow
on Saturday 18th August - Look out for details here

International unions
Starbucks No Sweat briefing notes
No Sweat briefing on Starbucks

August 2007

Starbucks – global corporation

Starbucks is the world's largest coffee chain. Founded in the early 1970s in the United States (US), last year its annual global turnover was $7.8bn (£3.9bn). Starbucks announced in October 2006 its long-term expansion target of 40,000 outlets around the world, more than triple the existing number.

Starbucks opened its first store in London in September 1998, on the King's Road, Chelsea. It opened its 500th outlet in the UK in July 2006. The company announced in January this year that it aimed to open a new store in London every fortnight for the next decade.

Exploiting workers

Over 100,000 people worldwide - known as “partners” – work for Starbucks. More than 5,000 people work for Starbucks in the UK.

Starbucks workers in the US earn as little $6-$8 per hour depending on the location. Every single barista in the US is part-time and not guaranteed any work hours per week. For example, a Starbucks worker can get 35 hours of work one week, 22 hours the week after, and 10 hours the following week. In Britain baristas get a little over the minimum wage – in other words poverty pay.

Meanwhile Starbucks CEO Jim Donald awarded himself a $2.5 million (£1.25m) bonus in 2004. Its highest paid UK director got £452,000 in 2005.

Starbucks baristas work at a relentless pace to meet extraordinary customer demands. The Starbucks work environment is also full of ergonomic hazards, resulting in repetitive strain injuries for many workers.

Workers report that they are often bullied by managers. Schedules are often made without consideration for workers’ needs. In the US, Starbucks requires workers to call around the city to get a shift covered when ill or in bereavement.

Starbucks anti-union activity

In 2004, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began an organising campaign in Starbucks in the US, forming the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU). In 2006 the union took the company to the US National Labor Relations Board for anti-union activity and victimising union members. Yet within months, it sacked another union organiser Daniel Gross.

The SWU alleges that the coffee giant: unlawfully fired two IWW baristas in retaliation for union activity; illegally disciplined workers for discussing the union during and after work; threatened, issued negative performance reviews, and suspended workers for supporting the union.

Exploiting coffee growers

According to the Guardian newspaper, coffee growers receive little more than $1.10 (50p) for a pound of coffee, which is then sold for $160 (£80).

Oxfam launched a campaign against Starbucks in October 2006 after it effectively blocked Ethiopia's attempts to trademark its coffee beans in the United States. Around 90,000 people wrote to chief executive Jim Donald to complain. Starbucks put out a video on the website YouTube, which said it would be illegal for the Ethiopians to trademark their beans Sidamo and Harar in the US since they are geographical regions which cannot be trademarked there.

Starbucks and the Ethiopian farmers signed a marketing, licensing and distribution deal in May 2007. It quit its campaign against the African country's farmers being allowed to trademark in the US the names of their highest quality beans

Union fightback

By April 2007, the SWU had a public organised presence at nine Starbucks stores spanning four states and Starbucks baristas in several other states.

In New York City, SWU members have won important victories:

* Four city-wide wage increases from $7.75 to $8.75 per hour and $9.63 for many workers after six months on the job
* More consistent scheduling of hours
* The right to wear union pins (badges)
* Significantly reducing unsafe rat and insect infestation in stores
* Reduced repetitive strain injuries

Similar gains have been won by SWU members in Chicago.

In November 2005, Starbucks workers in Auckland, New Zealand staged a one-hour protest about low wages for staff working in the fast-food sector. This was the first ever strike by Starbucks workers. The strike was part of the SuperSizeMyPay.Com campaign. It included more than 30 Starbucks workers from 10 different Auckland stores, joined by about 150 supporters and staff from KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds.

Starbucks are workers getting organised in France and Germany. The IWW is helping Starbucks workers set up their own union in Britain too. No Sweat supports the campaign and wants activists to help the unionising drive wherever there is a Starbucks or similar coffee shop.


IWW Starbucks Workers Union

Baristas United

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Friday, 27 July 2007

Glasgow's Radical Independent Book-fair

Can anyone help leaflet the Starbucks event about the 18th August protest against starbucks?


Glasgow's Radical Independent Book-fair project.

SAT 4th - AUGUST- 2007 12 - 10pm

Glasgow's Radical Independent Book-fair project...
...the long hot summer is here (well for one day in august anyway!) Kinning Park Complex - Cornwall Street - Glasgow
(next to Kinning Park Subway) stalls / resources / videotheque / events

FREE entry
for more info on RIB and a full set of links go to
...supporting small press publishers and independent producers...circulating radical reading materials and information...
EVENTS for august the 4th

12 - 4
Education and Neo-liberalism
- A Critical Discussion Forum
Conference sessions include -
- The Crichton Campaign: Learning lessons from education struggles.
- Principles of Autonomous, Radical and Community Education.
- The Dark Side of Academe.
- Roundtable: Education and Neo-Liberalism - Threats & Opportunities.

4 - 5
Praxis - Towards a new anarchist organisation
Speakers from Praxis, which sees its formal launch this September, and from the Irish Workers Solidarity Movement, on the need for specific anarchist organisation to involve our ideas in the mass movements and organisations of the working class. The event will draw on examples from the UK and Ireland, and explain why Praxis is being launched and outline our short term objectives. The WSM will state how they see that the presence of such an organisation has impacted positively on the class struggle in Ireland, and how such an organisation could be useful elsewhere.

6 - 7
Industrial Workers of the World
- Film screening & discussion
'Together We Win: The Fight To Organize Starbucks' and 'Coffee Sirens' are two films that highlight Starbucks Union activities and corporate propaganda. Includes a discussion with members from local IWW branches and filmmaker Diane Krauthamer from New York City IWW.

7 - 9
Document - Film screenings
Now in it's fifth year Document - International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival will screen a selection of films dealing with death in the work place. There will be a discussion with representatives of the Graham Meldrum Memorial Campaign and a poetry reading by Karen Thompson.
more info on the Graham Meldrum Memorial Campaign
more info about Document

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Starbucks leaflet

... why not print this flyer, run a pile of copies off, get a group of your friends and picket Starbucks on 18 August.

Starbucks -abusing workers'rights

Starbucks is one of the sickly-sweet faces of global capitalism. Worldwide it runs over 12,000 coffee shops and has an annual turnover of nearly £4bn. In Britain, it has over 500 outlets employing 5,000 workers.

The firm exploits workers all the way down the supply chain. In coffee shops, a Starbucks barista earns a little over the minimum wage but often doesn't get enough hours each week to make a decent living. In the UK its top executive earns nearly £500,000.

Workers might be called "partners" but in reality they suffer repetitive strain injuries, burns and persistent bullying from managers.
Starbucks pays farmers a pittance. According to the Guardian, growers receive little more than 50p for a pound of coffee, which is then sold for £80.
Starbucks is also anti-union. In the US it has faced legal action for victimising workers who tried to organise to improve their conditions.

But Starbucks isn't getting everything its own way. In New Zealand, Starbucks workers organised a strike to protest at their pay and conditions. The Starbucks Workers Union in the US has successfully organised in some stores and won improvements in pay, hours scheduling and on safety. An Oxfam campaign this year forced the firm to concede better terms to Ethiopian farmers.
Starbucks workers in the UK are also standing up for their rights. No Sweat is helping them to organise a union. Join us, get involved!
interested in no sweat?
Name: ..........................................................................................................
Address: ......................................................................................................
Email: .........................................................................................................
Phone: ........................................................................................................

Return to No Sweat, PO Box 36707, London SW9 8YA
Alternatively email or call 07904 431959

Coffee Sirens Film

"Coffee Sirens" presents how Starbucks Coffee Company uses a relentless propaganda campaign to move beyond selling coffee as a self-proclaimed "extension of people's lives." In dissecting the myths versus the realities of Starbucks, this film brings to light a corporate force that exploits labor while winning the hearts and minds of its loyal customers.

Coalition Fighting Unfair Pay


Coalition Fighting Unfair Pay

Dear Comrade,

I am writing to remind you know that the Coalition Fighting Unfair Pay (COFUP!) will be launched in Committee Room 9, House of Commons at 7pm on Tuesday 24th July.

COFUP! has been launched by the Socialist Youth Network, the youth wing of the Labour Representation Committee. SYN is a coalition of young Labour party members and trade unionists fighting for socialism in the Labour party.

The main aims of COFUP are to campaign for Labour councils to include a living wage without exemptions as part of their worker procurement contracts and for the Labour party to adopt a living wage for all workers regardless of age as its official policy at Conference.

The speakers at the rally include Manuel Cortes (Deputy General Secretary of TSSA), Cllr. Miranda Grell, John McDonnell MP, Rory MacQueen (GMB), Angela Molloy (Regional Industrial Officer for T&G Region 1), Heenal Rajani (UNISON), Sam Tarry (Compass Youth) and Marsha-Jane Thompson (Co-Chair of SYN).

The event is open to all and I hope that you will be able to attend. Please also spread the word!

Finally, an Early Day Motion has been tabled in Parliament in support of the campaign. EDM 1876 has now been signed by 39 MPs. If you have a local Labour MP, I hope you will consider writing to them to ask for their support.

In solidarity,

Owen Jones

Co-Chair of the Socialist Youth Network

Solidarity with migrant workers

Solidarity with migrant workers

This branch notes that:

1.Migrant workers in the UK do jobs that are often unpleasant and sometimes tough. But these jobs – from cleaning on the Undergound, to caring for the sick and elderly – are all essential.
2.Some migrant workers are forced into illegal work under ruthless gangmasters and agencies. Even those working legally plugging gaps in agriculture or construction suffer extremely low pay, poor health and safety standards, long hours, excessive workload and bullying.
3.The trade union movement is now beginning to take on the essential task of organising migrant workers, overcoming language barriers, building trust, allaying fears of reprisal from bullying employers, working in areas where there is a complete lack of legal rights. That is why the self-organisation of workers and our solidarity is essential.
4.No Sweat, an activist, campaigning organisation, fighting sweatshop bosses, in solidarity with workers worldwide, has produced a pamphlet making the political case for solidarity with migrant workers, with fact and figures, case studies from the trade union movement and ideas for organising. No Sweat has the backing of PCS, GMB, Unison, CWU, RMT, NUT, NUS and others in the UK.

This branch resolves to buy ____ copies of the new ‘Solidarity with migrant workers pamphlet’ at £1 per copy (discount trade union price, postage free).

Monday, 16 July 2007

High price paid for cheap UK clothes

There was also a discussion on this on BBC Radio Scotland this Morning

High price paid for cheap UK clothes

Karen McVeigh in Dhaka
Monday July 16, 2007
The Guardian

Two toddlers sit on a rusting grille platform built on bamboo stilts at the entrance to one of Bangladesh's fastest-growing housing developments.
Three feet below them lies a festering mound of rubbish, into which a gushing waste pipe from a nearby factory discharges. Beyond them are rows and rows of windowless, airless, corrugated iron rooms, stacked on top of each other like chicken coops.

This is Begunbari in Dhaka, the heart of the city's industrial district and home to many of its garment workers, including those who make clothes for some of Britain's best-known high street brands, including Asda, Tesco and Primark.

By day, the rooms are like ovens. At night, the noise from the slum's estimated 50,000 inhabitants, their screaming babies, radios and televisions is deafening. But the rent is cheap, at 900 takas or three pounds a month, which is why they are filled with factory workers, whose monthly earning are, they say, as little as seven pounds, or just two pence an hour.
Over the last 10 years, Bangladesh's clothing industry has boomed, fed by the huge demand for cut-price clothes supplied by supermarkets and discount chains.

An estimated 2.5 million people work in thousands of factories here, but their wages have halved in real terms in recent years, making them one of the cheapest workforces in the world.

When faced with previous allegations that their suppliers are exploiting factory workers, Asda, Tesco and Primark have spoken of their commitment to labour rights. All three have signed up to a code of conduct which sets out basic rights for employees, including that they shall not regularly work more than 48 hours a week, that overtime shall be voluntary and not exceed 12 hours a week, and that a "living wage" should be paid. But last month, employees of factories supplying clothes to all three retailers told the Guardian that their wages were so low that, despite working up to 84-hour weeks, they struggled to provide for their families. Many claimed they were regularly forced to work 12-hour days, and that working through the night to finish an order was not uncommon. Workers from factories supplying all three companies also said they were refused access to trade unions and claimed that, in the last month, four colleagues had been dismissed for attempting to organise a union.

Physical abuse

All of the eight workers interviewed by the Guardian said they were paid well below the £22 a month considered by experts to be the minimum living wage.

One worker claimed she had witnessed the physical and verbal abuse of a colleague and said she felt "threatened and frightened" at work, while another said he had been sacked and had his wages withheld for taking two days off to take his baby daughter to hospital. A third, who folds clothes for all three companies, claimed two colleagues lost their jobs last month for taking three consecutive sick days off. He said he was forced to stand nine hours a day, with only one, hour-long break for lunch.

Parvin, 25, a sewing machine operator who makes jeans and trousers for Primark, told the Guardian that she had seen a supervisor physically attack a colleague for not meeting her target of making 100 pieces an hour.

"I do things very quickly," said Parvin, from Begunbari. "A sewing machine operator hadn't met her target of finishing 100 pieces. It was maybe 80 or 90. The supervisor came over and snatched up the clothes and slapped her and shouted at her. What can she say? If she protested, she would be sacked."

She earns £18 a month for working from 8am to 8.30pm, a 75-hour week. At least three times a month, she is forced to work through the night, until 4am, and often until 10 or 11pm, she said.

The long hours leave her "very tired and sometimes exhausted" but she fears she might lose her job if she did not work overtime. Besides, her basic wage is not enough to live on, let alone send money home to her three children in her village, so she needs the money.

Mahbubur, 20, a machine operator, who provides clothes for Tesco and Primark, earns £16 a month, but he said apprentices or helpers in his factory earn only £9. His basic hours are 8am to 8pm, six days a week, but overtime, sometimes through the night, is compulsory, as is a meticulous attendance record. "If someone refuses, they can lose their job," he said. "This month, two of my colleagues lost their jobs. One, his father was sick and he had to go to the country to take care of him. The other had a fever." There is a nurse but no doctor in his factory. If someone is sick, they will often have to work until 5pm before they are allowed to go home, he said. Azizul, 28, a sewing machine operator who makes clothes for Primark, said he was sacked on June 20 and had his month's wages withheld, after he took two days off work to take his baby daughter to hospital.

He said: "I feel sorrow and sadness, not anger. There is nothing I can do."

Nazma Akter, president of the United Garment Workers Federation and general secretary of the Awaj Foundation, a local organisation which fights for workers' rights, said that long hours, bad working conditions, poverty and the overcrowded and insanitary conditions in which garment workers are forced to live made them susceptible to a number of illnesses and diseases.

Health problems

"They get tuberculosis, kidney problems, diarrhoea, problems with their hearing and there are a huge amount of skin diseases caused by the dust and fibres. People here boil water before they drink it but the garment workers do not have the time to do that. There are also mental health problems brought on by constant stress."

Last year, after garment workers set fire to 16 factories and ransacked 300 more to demand better pay and conditions, and amid pressure from organisations such as Awaj, the Bangladeshi government agreed to introduce a minimum wage of 1,660 taka or £12 a month. The deadline for the new wage, which is supposed to be based on an eight-hour day, passed a month ago, but according to the National Garment Workers' Federation, even this meagre target is not being met, with 60% of factories still flouting the rules.

Workers spoke to the Guardian on the condition that it did not reveal the names of the factories in which they worked. They feared they would be sacked from their already insecure jobs, or that the British buyers would withdraw from the factory altogether and they would lose their jobs. They told us they did not want British companies to pull out, but that they wanted better pay and conditions.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Asda said that it would re-audit all its Bangladeshi factories in the light of the Guardian's findings. He added: "We find abuse of any kind unacceptable. It appears that one of our approved factories, which are audited up to three times a year, has subcontracted this work to another factory without our knowledge and against our wishes. It's disappointing that the Guardian's policy is to keep the name of the factory secret. By doing so no action can be taken to ensure those workers are no longer mistreated. Where we find wrongdoing we put it right."

A spokesman for Primark said that labour conditions were a matter of "considerable concern". In a statement, it said that it had audited all its Bangladeshi suppliers in the last six months and had "agreed a programme of remediation" with those not complying with its code of conduct. It acknowledged that audits were an "imperfect tool" to achieve compliance and that it was working with the Ethical Trading Initiative, an alliance of companies, NGOs, and trade unions, to lobby the Bangladeshi government to improve workers' rights. It added: "We hope that this Guardian report will add to the pressure on the Bangladeshi government to act to protect both its workers and this important source of income and foreign exchange." A spokesman for Tesco said it could not take any action because it had not been not provided with the names of the factories concerned. The spokesman said: "These allegations are serious but without being provided with any detail we cannot investigate them."

He added: "We have stuck by Bangladesh, continued to invest in modern factories and done all we can to ensure that high standards and good conditions are maintained by the most thorough independent audits carried out anywhere in the world. The alternative - and it would be easier in many ways - would be for us to stop sourcing in countries that have economic and social problems which are beyond the capabilities of any organisation working alone to fix. But we don't think that is right for the people of Bangladesh or what our customers would expect us to do."

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Anti-Starbucks day Saturday August 18th

No Sweat Scotland welcomes ideas on this

Submitted by SWU on Mon, 07/09/2007 - 10:46pm.

Today Starbucks went on trial in Manhattan, and I had the privilege of attending several hours of the proceedings today. On the way downtown, I noticed that a young woman on the subway seemed to be using a brown paper Starbucks bag as a purse. And it did make a pretty nice handbag! Starbucks's professions of concern for "corporate responsibility" are much like that: attractive packaging.

In the trial that began today, the nation's leading purveyor of coffee-flavored milk drinks stands accused by the National Labor Relations Board of thirty violations of employee rights, especially firing workers for union organizing. Starbucks had seven lawyers present. The two fired workers in question-- Daniel Gross and Joe Agins, Jr., both IWW members -- were present. Gross wore a suit and looked sharp, as any activist appearing before a judge probably should. (Agins went for a less formal look -- a sleeveless muscle t-shirt.)

Today both sides waded through the details of discovery; that is to say, the NLRB lawyers asked for documents from Starbucks, and the company's legal team whined about how "burdensome" it would be to get so many documents, because, since the turnover rate is so high, many of the relevant personnel files are now in storage. It is very difficult to get the files out once they go in, Stacy Eisenstein, one of Starbucks lead outside counsel, argued with a straight face. More incredibly, before the hearing had officially begun, she disputed the NLRB's contention that there was a union campaign going on when Gross and Agin were fired. If that is a major cornerstone of Starbucks's defense, the company could be in trouble, because the judge -- who seemed very fair-minded and interested in reaching reasonable compromises -- did not buy it, and allowed discovery based on the assumption that the date of the union campaign was relevant. (Also, there is ample public record of the campaign, including media coverage.)

It will be interesting to see what happens. I can't be there for much of the rest of the trial, unfortunately, so I really hope other journalists and bloggers will go check it out. They are taking tomorrow off, and back in session Wednesday.

[ Note: The trial continues at a new location: 120 W. 45th St. 14th Floor at 9:30am, Wednesday July 11]

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Saturday, 7 July 2007

Stripping against sweatshops

How about Students in Scotland copying this? Much more of a sacrifice given our weather.


China Labour Bulletin Activist Network

Scotland- Call Centre Nation ?

Workers Sit-in

African migrant workers sit-in

Poorly paid and routinely pressured to perform un- or inadequately-compensated overtime, irregular migrants employed at the French-based fast food chain Buffalo Grill are fighting back after being denounced to the authorities and fired or pressured to quit their jobs. The migrants, mostly of African origin, many with years of employment at the chain, face expulsion from the France of Nicolas Sarkozy to their country of origin.

Last year, a popular immigrant Buffalo Grill worker announced his candidacy for workplace representation elections. in February 2007, his irregular employment status was "anonymously" denounced to the police, who proceeded to control the employment papers' of the chain's more than 600 foreign workers. Four were fired and others pressured to resign. A group of undocumented workers, supported by the Commerce, Distribution and Services Federation of the CGT (FCDS-CGT), is fighting back by occupying the Buffalo Grill in Viry-Chatillon, in the South of Paris. The police have not yet moved to enforce a court order to evacuate the premises and the occupation continues.

Buffalo Grill, based in France, operates close to 300 restaurants in France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, employing over 6,000 workers. Two top executives of the chain were investigated on manslaughter charges in 2003 following revelations that the company had violated the French ban on importing British beef during the mad cow disease embargo of 1996-2000. Management's initial claim to have been the victim of fraudulent practices by immigrants seeking employment with false papers has been punctured by revelations in the French press that workers fired from one Buffalo Grill location were knowingly rehired in others.

Since 2005, Buffalo Griill has been owned by the US property investment fund Colony Capital, owners of the Fairmont/Raffles and Kerzner hotel and resort chains. Colony Capital has also taken a significant stake in the Accor hotel and services group.

The French case recalls that of the 5 Salvadoran workers fired by management of a US Marriott hotel in 2001 for attempting to organize a union. In that case, the National Labor Relations Board eventually determined that the workers were sacked illegally. Marriott was compelled to pay compensation and to post a notice in the hotel informing workers of their right to union representation.

The FCDS-CGT is demanding the reinstatement of all Buffalo Grill workers fired or forced to resign, along with regularization of their employment status and an end to all legal and police measures. You can support their struggle by sending a message (in English and French) in support of these demands to Buffalo Grill and Colony Capital management.

Send a message of support, click here:

Monday, 2 July 2007

More great links

ACORN (US Living Wage campaign)

CAT - Centro De Apoyo Al Trabajador
The CAT is labour rights NGO based in Puebla, Mexico.


China Labour Bulletin

Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee


Fair Wear Australia

Clean Clothes Campaign

Argentina Solidarity Campaign


US Leap

Corporate Ethics Watchdog

Campaign for Labor Rights
read more


Women Working Worldwide


No One Is Illegal (NOII)

Organisation of Women's Freedom, Iraq
read more

Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU)

Federation of Workers' Councils, Iraq

UK Students Against Coke

Coca-cola UK Links StudentsStudents

Colombia Solidarity Campaign


Bolivia Solidarity Campaign




People and Planet


Oaxaca photos


APPO, Oaxaca, Mexico


China Briefing

Chinese garment industry: new briefing
LBL have produced a briefing:

Live working or die fighting

Live working or die fighting by Paul Mason
Author:Paul Mason


This book is an ambitious attempt to bring some of the great events from working class history to a new generation of youth. Paul Mason argues that as the working class in the “global south” has expanded, so new workers’ movements are emerging with strong similarities to those that arose during the first wave of globalisation, which began in the 1870s.

Historical vignettes

Each chapter of the book takes a current episode or struggle and juxtaposes it to an earlier class battle. The contrasts are:

* The Peterloo massacre in 1819 with Chinese sweatshop workers in 2003
* The silk weavers’ revolt in Lyon 1831 with Indian textile workers in 2005
* The Paris Commune 1871 with Nigerian slums in 2005
* The early US labour movement 1869-86 with Iraqi oil workers in 2006
* Syndicalism 1889-1912 with Canary Wharf cleaners in 2006
* German workers against war 1905-1918 with Bolivian miners 2006
* The birth of Chinese working class 1919-27 with Indian auto workers in 2005
* The Warsaw ghetto uprising 1943 with neighbourhood uprisings in Bolivia 2003-2005
* Workers control in Italy 1920, France 1936 and the US 1937 with Argentina in 2006

The modern cases are generally based on Mason’s own first-hand investigations as a Newsnight journalist. The historical examples come from a wide reading of labour history. The result is highly readable book, even where some of the parallels are a little forced - and even where strictly, some were not really part of the first wave of globalisation at all.

Working class heroes

A distinctive feature of the book is the way Mason tells stories of collective action through the lives of those who led them. Thus we learn about Samuel Bamford’s role in worker organising - including military-style drilling - building a movement during the infancy of the English working class. The Peterloo massacre is also commemorated by Shelley’s poem, which urged workers to “rise like lions” because “Ye are many - they are few”.

Jean-Claude Romand, who coined the phrase “live working or die fighting”, is the principal figure in the Lyon revolt. In the Paris Commune, bookbinder Eugène Varlin and teacher Louise Michel are the central characters. In the US movement for May Day, Martin Irons and railworker Terence Powderly are the principal figures. Irons remarked that it was the principle of solidarity, that “an injury to one is the concern of us all”, which turned him from a drifter into a militant union organiser.

In the fight to organise unskilled workers before the First World War, Tom Mann, Victor Griffuelhes, Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn are the key actors. This chapter summed up what it meant to be part of the “union way of life”, in Griffuelhes’ phrase. The Industrial Workers’ of the World (IWW) drive for “one big union” included the story of the 1912 US textile workers’ strike, which coined the demand, “We want Bread and Roses too”.

The socialist way of life in the million’s strong German SPD and its successors is told through Oskar Hippe and Toni Sender, although Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are not overlooked for the part they played. Jan Valtin is also used to spice the narrative, despite doubts about the authenticity of his memoirs.

The rise of the Chinese workers’ movement is told through the eyes of Li Qi-han, though the story of the crushing of that movement by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927 is more conventionally described. More tangential to the main thesis of the book, but nevertheless a fascinating and moving account, is the story of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, as told by Marek Edelman. Mason does a useful job in describing the Jewish workers’ organisations such as the Bund and Hashomer Hatzair youth movement that led the uprising. Edelman was one of the few to survive it, going on to help the Solidarnosz movement in the early 1980s.

The closing chapter centres on the tremendous wave of sit-ins during the inter-war period. In Turin, the half a million metalworkers who occupied their factories in 1920 is told mainly through Antonio Gramsci’s journalism. Simone Weil’s writings are the basis for the story France in 1936, when 1.8 million workers took strike action in 12,000 workplaces, three-quarters of which were occupied. The great workers’ sit-in at the Flint General Motors plant the following year is told through militants Bob Travis and the Trotskyist Genora Dollinger.

Lessons from history

Mason told Mark Osborn in Solidarity 3/111, 3 May that he was reacting to “the lessons of history” approach in much left-wing literature. Yet he draws “two big truths” from the narrative himself. He argues firstly that workers faced with rapid industrialisation, organise unions because the same forces that make rival companies compete and managers cut costs and secondly that, when there is a globalised economy, a global labour movement begins to take shape.

I think these conclusions are essential in today’s conditions of neo-liberal globalisation. They are certainly important against those who have retreated from class and from the labour movement.

But Mason also seems to draw more specific “lessons”, with each chapter appearing to contain a quite explicit message. The Peterloo massacre demonstrated the need for a working class political movement. In the silk workers revolt, the importance of the revolutionary newspapers, L’Echo de la Fabrique and L’Echo des Travailleurs, stand out. And from the Paris Commune, the need to fight for a workers’ government.

From the early US movement, the importance of a shorter working day and from syndicalism, the importance of militancy for successful unionisation. From Germany, the importance of unity and of opposition to the government. From the early Chinese movement, the need to understand alliances with nationalists and their limits. From the Warsaw uprising, the need to fight for freedom even in impossible circumstances.
And from the sit-ins, the power of workers to control the economy.

Personally I see no shame in extracting “lessons” from history for today’s struggles, providing the parallels are not drawn mechanically. One of the jobs of Marxists is to act as the memory of the working class. What matters is the manner of our selections; not per se, the desire to learn from the past.

The new working class

The history is also pertinent at a time when the working class is a growing power in the world, in terms of its numerical strength and potential power in the global production chain. In the last 20 years, the 460 million workers in the advanced economies have been joined by over 1 billion workers in the third world and since 1990 by a whopping 1.4 billion from China, India and Russia that previously were largely outside the circuit of capital. Today the waged working class – broadly defined – is the largest class in the world, with greater social weight than at any other time of human history.

However not all the examples of modern labour struggles in the book are indicative of the potential of the new working class. Bolivia, Argentina and Iraq certainly merit the prominence they are given. But most of the individuals Mason refers to, with the exception of Hassan Juma, are not widely known. Surprisingly, important figures such as Dita Sari in Indonesia and Mansour Ossanlou in Iran are absent. The militant unions in Korea and Mexico are not discussed at all. The highpoints as well as defeats a generation ago in places like Brazil and South Africa are also passed over, although they illustrate comparable issues of political representation, the relationship between unions and political parties and of workers’ control. In advanced capitalist economies, the recent militancy of French workers is surely worthy of note.

Mason is realistic about the obstacles to the revival of the labour movement, including the stratification of the working class and the emergence of a new kind of (neo-liberal) social reformism. He is critical of Stalinism, both in historical writing and in actual history for cauterising independent workers’ organisation. He is less convincing in attributing a “culture of individualism” as a key factor holding back the labour movement revival.

I think Mason also goes too far in describing the level of organisation as “pre-1889”. Globally, there are still over 200 million trade unionists. And we have far greater experiences to draw on than workers did back then – as well as over a century of Marxist ideas. Nor does he point to the socialist forces that might help turn the situation around. Yet it is this subjective factor that is also necessary if the new possibilities are to be realised.

Starbucks and Coffee Farmers

Starbucks record

Oxfam in the US are running a campaign to get Starbucks to improve their relationship with Ethiopian coffee farmers

Starbucks Union
A US drive to organise Starbucks workers

Thursday, 28 June 2007

No Sweat Scotland site

No Sweat Scotland is an activist, campaigning organisation, fighting sweatshop bosses, in solidarity with workers, worldwide.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Great Links

Anti-slavery international :

Barbed Wire Britain Network:

Close down campsfield:

Coalition to stop deporation to Iraq:

ESOL campaign

International Union of Sex workers :

Iraq Union Solidarity Scotland

Labour start:

Migrant Rights network:

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

No One is illegaL:

Rail Cleaners Charter

Thai Labour campaign

US Immigrant Solidarity network

Friday, 22 June 2007

Model Union Motion

Union Branch resolution: Sweatshop Labour

1. Child and sweatshop labour is a scandal.

2. Some of the high street's most famous names, including Nike, Gap, Adidas and Reebok, have been exposed by the newspapers, and TV programmes such as Panorama and John Pilger's The New Rulers, as sweatshop employers.

3. Children as young as 11 have been found working in scandalous conditions in factories commissioned by these companies to produce their goods.

4. A single top or pair of trainers can cost more to buy in the UK than the worker who produced them receives in a month. The average wage for a Nike worker in Vietnam is just $47 a month.

5. According to the US National Labor Committee, Phil Knight, co-founder of the Nike corporation, is worth $12.3 billion.

6. Forced overtime, sexual abuse, poor health and safety conditions and violence and harassment, especially against trade unionists, have been uncovered by reporters and trade union and Government investigators.

7. No Sweat Scotland campaigns in Scotland and the UK, with other campaigning groups and unions, to end child and sweatshop labour and for workers' rights at home and abroad.

8. Workers in sweatshops must be free to organise their own, independent trade unions. Codes of conduct mean nothing unless the workers themselves can enforce standards such as a limit to the working week, no forced overtime, decent health and safety.

This Union Resolves To:

1. Invite a No Sweat Scotland speaker to our next meeting.

2. Affiliate to No Sweat Scotland

3. Publicise the work of No Sweat Scotland

No Sweat past activities

Between 2002 and 2005, NSS organised many protests over Sweatshop labour. There were protests at McDonalds,Gap, Disney on International Women’s day, and Pickets of the Chinese consulate over the jailing of Chinese labour leaders in Liaoyong, representation of Chinese workers at Workers Memorial days, and over 100 people at a public meeting to hear Mexican workers speak about their victory over Nike

NSS also had a speaker from Haiti. All these women trade union activists spoke to large numbers of students at Edinburgh University and helped The People and Planet Society there move from ethical consumerism to having more of a focus on workers rights.

In 2004 NSS was also instrumental in pulling together a coalition to get Multinationals out of the schools. Adidas had been given access to 20 Edinburgh primary Schools to organise “sports training days”. The coalition included the Scottish Parents Teachers Council, SSP, Greens, Edinburgh Trades Council and No Sweat Scotland.We had successful public meetings and organised a successful deputation to Edinburgh Council who agreed to review their guidelines on access to schools.

Where we Stand

No Sweat Scotland : Who we are

No Sweat Scotland is an activist, campaigning organisation, fighting sweatshop bosses, in solidarity with workers, worldwide.

Sweatshop labour is modern, global capitalism stripped bare. From the small, backstreet sweatshop to some of the biggest corporations in the world - child labour, forced overtime, poverty wages, unsafe conditions, harassment of women workers and intimidation of trade unionists are commonplace.

No Sweat Scotland stands for workers' solidarity.

We are for:

A living wage
Safe working conditions
Independent trade unions

All workers, in every country, deserve and need these rights. In order to enforce these rights, they need to be free to organise - the stronger the union, the safer the workplace!

We aim to:

Make solidarity with sweatshop workers and their organisations
Help unionise sweatshops in Scotland
Publicise, expose and help stamp out sweatshop employment.

No Sweat is an open, broad-based campaign. We look to the anti-capitalist protest movements and to the international workers' movement. We seek to build common, united, campaiging action against exploitation and the sweatshop bosses.

Come and join us, help us, get active!