Blog: April 2009

Corporate America Feasts from the African Bread Basket

In its essence, Ngonyo’s talk downplayed the influence that American corporations and government agencies have in re-shaping Kenya's agriculture policy. Kenyan farmers and consumers were kept in the dark last year as the US legislature passed the Global Food Security Act on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that benefits multinational corporations while putting farmers and consumers at risk. However, this act paints a bigger and more morbid picture of a broken African food system that allows these corporations and agencies to abuse agricultural workers and in turn feed the world unhealthy food.

Far from Equal Pay

In the US, according to a new analysis released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the median weekly income for men is higher than those of women in almost all occupations.  Even in the highest ten paying professions for women, a woman’s salary consists of only 86% of a man’s salary in the same position.  This has significant consequences for women, as the salary that a female worker is paid today considerably impacts the amount of social security benefits she will receive later in life and the retirement money she will be able to rely on due to the contribution she will be able to make to her 401K plans.

Beyond ‘Buy American’: Sorting Allies and Enemies

When unions side with nationalism they confuse workers about who our allies are, who our enemies are, and what will advance our own interests. Without alternative strategies economic nationalism seems logical, but our history suggests it will take us onto the rocks. Why?


Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when we were first starting to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs and corporations were going global, labor reacted by advocating trade protections and Buy American. Toyota-bashing parties and blaming Mexican workers for stealing our jobs were commonplace.

Workers Responding to Crisis #1: Updates from France, Central Europe, NYC, DC, Boston & More!

Central Europe

Tire production has been rapidly expanding in Central Europe recently with companies like Bridgestone and Goodyear opening up factories in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.  The ICEM and rubber union leaders in Central Europe recently held a meeting in Budapest to talk about how the economic crisis is affecting tire workers and how these unions can work together.  Many unions reported that workers are seeing hours and wages reduced, some are being forced to take vacation or are working shorter weeks and others are still struggling with union recognition.


Tax Dollars for Sweatshops?

Governments can help create a more fair and just economy in many ways.  One way, seldom considered, is simply being responsible and ethical consumers.  As big purchasers, governments on all levels can require that workers who make the products they buy enjoy decent working conditions and living wages. Many states and cities are doing so by joining the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, an innovative new collaboration to steer our tax dollars to companies doing the right thing by their workers.

EFCA Would Aid Exploited Workers

Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum

I wrote a post today for the "End Human Trafficking" blog explaining why those concerned about trafficking and labor exploitation should support the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  Check it out here. is a great social networking website for those concerned about social issues and activism.  Check it out and considering signing up!

Responding to Mars, Inc.'s Sustainability Announcement

Additionally, let's remember that Mars' plan will not cover their entire supply chain until 2020 -- even though ILRF and many other organizations have been calling on Mars to commit to Fair Trade since 2001.  However, it is interesting to note that ILRF's report on the cocoa industry released last July called on chocolate companies to work with certification agencies like Rainforest Alliance to strengthen labor standards.  We hope that Rainforest Alliance will strengthen their labor rights standards and monitoring.  You can check out a press release from ILRF and the Organic Consumers Association


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