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Wetlands Works Newsletter April 2000

Now it's our turn on the east coast to smash globalization! With the World Bank and IMF meeting first in our own backyard in New Jersey and then in Washington DC, where activists from all over the country will be converging, it'll be a busy month. See you there!

300 March in Solidarity with Women Sweatshop Workers

Labor rights advocates celebrated the week of International Working Women's Day on Saturday, March 4 with a march to build support for women workers' struggles to organize against sweatshop conditions. The activists rallied at stores that sell products made in sweatshops with a major focus on Gap, Inc. stores-- The Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic-- as well as Guess?, McDonald's (some Happy Meal toys are made in Thailand), and the NYU bookstore, seller of NYU clothing. The march ended with a rally at Greene and Washington Place, the site of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in which nearly 200 women garment workers lost their lives. Ironically, the site is directly across the street from the NYU bookstore, which sells clothes made in sweatshops.

In discussions with anti-sweatshop groups, Gap has refused to accept responsibility for ensuring that workers are paid the necessary living wage. In Saipan, a US territory replete with sweatshops, Gap does the most business of any company on the island-- over $200 million a year-- contracting in six factories. Whereas these companies import without tariff or quota restrictions and label their clothes 'Made in the USA,' they do not adhere to US labor laws. In Russia, Gap pays factory workers 11 cents/hour and keeps them in slave-like conditions. Honduran Gap factory workers are subjected to forced pregnancy tests, forced overtime, exceedingly high production goals, locked bathrooms, and wages of $4/day, which only meet a third of their basic needs. If workers tried to organize a union or even become more informed of their rights, they would be fired. They had never heard of Gap's code of conduct, which the company claims ensures worker protection.

At the final stop on the march route, participants saluted NYU's announcement on Thursday that it would join the Worker's Rights Consortium, a non-profit organization that supports and verifies licensee compliance with production codes of conduct. These codes of conduct have been developed by colleges and universities across the country to ensure that goods are produced under conditions that respect the basic rights of workers. Activists view this as the first step to improving conditions for workers making clothes sold in NYU's bookstore and sports center.

In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company killed 146 garment workers in New York City. It became a catalyst that helped to end the commonplace abuse of workers in the United States. Days after the fire, over 80,000 people took part in the funeral procession up Fifth Avenue. Eventually, the groundswell of support led to new workers' rights and safer workplaces. In 1993 a fire at the Kadar Industrial Toy Company in Thailand killed 188 workers, who, like the victims in 1911, faced locked doors and no fire protection equipment. At opposite ends of the century, these two fires share a root cause-- sweatshops. A sweatshop is defined as any workplace where workers are subject to extreme exploitation. This includes hazardous working conditions, arbitrary discipline, and a lack of a living wage, benefits, dignitym, or basic human rights. In the years since the Kadar fire, other stories of exploitation, child labor and tragedy have created a new groundswell to stop the abuse. The anti-sweatshop movement has grown massively in recent months, as new anti-sweatshop groups are forming on campuses and in communities around the country, and more and more companies and universities are agreeing to institute code of conduct for workers producing their clothes.

Forest and Human Rights Activists Protest Gore on Super Tuesday

Environmental and indigenous rights activists from Rainforest Relief and the Activism Center at Wetlands Preserve protested Al Gore on Super Tuesday, March 7. The protesters targeted potential Gore voters on the day of New York's presidential primary at a large voting site in Midtown Manhattan. The demonstration was part of the continuing campaign against Vice-President Al Gore's investment in Occidental Petroleum, the oil giant charged with causing the genocide of the indigenous U'wa people and destroying Colombia's rainforests.

Norwegian Consulate Targeted For Street Theatre Over Clubbing Deaths Of Thousands Of Seals

Norwegian embassies and consulates in 15 countries were the target of demonstrations on March 7 to protest Norway's continued bloody slaughter of tens of thousands of seals. In New York City, The Norwegian Consulate was targeted theatre by activists from Wetlands and the Animal Defense League with a graphic street theater action. The International Day of Action demanded that Norway, Canada, and the handful of other sealing nations "get in step with the rest of civilization and ban the seal slaughter."

Between 27,000 and 38,000 seals a year have been killed by the Norwegians since 1996. "Young seals are repeatedly bludgeoned with a device called a 'hakapik', which has a spike on one end and is used to drag the bleeding seal off the ice after he is clubbed or shot," said John Paul Goodwin, executive director of Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, organizer of the US response to the day of action. This bloody act was demonstrated in New York in a graphic street theater.