Child Labor Still Widespread
Date of publication: January 31, 2008
Source: The Charleston Gazette
About 140 million Americans are likely to watch Sunday's Super Bowl pitting the New York Giants against the New England Patriots. TV ads during the sports extravaganza cost millions because they reach multitudes.
This year, Bridgestone, the "official tire" of the National Football League, will spend heavily to sponsor the Super Bowl's halftime show.
Bridgestone, now Japanese-owned after acquiring Firestone, undoubtedly will show only the happy side of carefree cruising on the firm's new tires, writes Jamie Menutis in "Foreign Policy in Focus," an Internet site of the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank. But Bridgestone tires have another side.
Super Bowl viewers, Menutis argues, should think about foreign workers producing rubber for those tires, such as a "seven-year-old Liberian girl, sick from toxins, with blistered skin, her eyes unprotected from the latex she is harvesting as she labors on the Firestone Rubber Plantation."
The Firestone Plantation Co. created the largest rubber plantation in the world back in 1926 near Harbel, a town in Liberia. Former child laborers from the Liberian plantation now have a lawsuit pending against Bridgestone in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. (Firestone is still based in Nashville, Tenn.)
In December, the Liberian Supreme Court ruled that efforts by Liberian farm workers to organize for higher wages are legal. Today, Liberian rubber workers make $3.19 a day.
The U.N. Mission in Liberia documented tragedies of child labor in a recent report titled "Human Rights in Liberia's Rubber Plantations." It said:
"Unsustainable exploitation of the environment and natural resources has contributed to the fuelling of armed conflict in Liberia and her neighboring states. To assist in peace-building in Liberia, the government as well as corporations must abide by the rule of law, human rights and good business practices."
Watching Sunday's Bridgestone-Firestone tire ads should remind viewers to ponder troublesome realities behind tires that keep America rolling.