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Wetlands Works Newsletter Winter 2001

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to all! Sorry that it's been awhile since you've heard from us; we've been having technical problems... On that note, anyone who would like to come and volunteer any computer skills should give us a call-- we could use the help!

10 Arrested Protesting Macy's Sale of Fur on Long Island

Animal rights activists on Long Island staged a highly successful civil disobedience action and rally demanding an end to the sale of fur garments at all Macy's stores. The October 14 protest began at 10 AM at the Sunrise Mall, coincidentally just across the street from the Kohl's store where many of the same activists had protested a week earlier.

Protesters rallied at the mall's Macy's store, occupying the attention of police and media. This, however, was really just a distraction. While all eyes were on the Sunrise Mall protesters, a group of activists entered the Walt Whitman Mall about ten miles away from Sunrise. The Walt Whitman team approached the Macy's entrance inside the mall. Two groups of three protesters headed for either side of the entrance of the store. Each group chained their arms together inside steel pipes (also known as lockboxes) around one of the pillars just outside the store. Once the activists were locked in place, they began loudly chanting, "Boycott Macy's! Fur is Murder!"

Within minutes, mall and Macy's security guards arrived on the scene. One security guard threatened to "beat the crap" out of the group's police liason, a civil liberties group representative, and asked his supervisor for permission to do the same to the locked down activists. The liason was also shoved by Macy's security while Mall security prodded and pulled the locked down activists.

Security ordered an activist who was videotaping the action to put away his camera, no doubt in and effort to avoid the creation of a record of the abuse that would ensue. Other activists inside the mall discretely took snapshots throughout the lockdown, trying to remain unnoticed by security to avoid being thrown out of the mall. The group at the Sunrise Mall was informed of the lockdown's success and told to come to Walt Whitman, their distraction demo having served it's intended purpose.

Police soon arrived and kicked the police liaison out of the mall with no regard for his status as an independent civil liberties advocate. Around this time the police set up visual barriers around the locked down activists to prevent their customers from seeing the lengths compassionate people will go to challenge Macy's killing of animals for fur.

When the contingent from Sunrise arrived at Walt Whitman, they stormed the mall as a group, staging a protest, complete with signs and banners, inside the mall in front of the Macy's entrance where the six were locked down. Police soon removed them, and they marched on the sidewalk in front of the mall where a street protest was already forming among those who had been kicked out of the mall earlier. Four people participating in this outside demonstration were arrested while attempting to exercise their right to free speech and educate the mall's patrons. The six locked-down activists were arrested as well, and all will face court in the coming months.

All told the direct action went ahead brilliantly, and the support demonstration was large and energetic, despite police harassment.

March Against Genetic Engineering

This fall during an anti-genetic engineering conference organized by Free Agency activists from Wetlands Preserve helped to create a festive march that focused attention on the corporations that profit off propelling this dangerous technology forward. Other organizations working on the march were the Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth, the Fishberries, Greenpeace, and In Defense of Animals. The broad coalition helped to address the issue's many problems: animal experimentation, human health risks, and environmental destruction.

The colorful group met in front of a Food Emporium grocery where many went on a tour of genetically engineered products inside the store while others fliered shoppers outside. The next stop on the march, which included stiltwalkers; corn, potato, and butterfly costumes; and Frankentony the tiger, was Taco Bell. Activists alerted people inside that they were eating genetically engineered food, speakers discussed the dangers of genetic engineering, and performers dressed in taco shells sang about the recent recall of GE Starlink corn, found in Taco Bell's shells. Activists smashed boxes of the taco shells and marched on.

Next target was Citibank, an investor in genetic engineering giant Monsanto. After more speeches and songs, the march proceeded to the Bank of New York, a broker for Huntington Life Sciences who does animal experimentation for Monsanto and Novartis as well as Xenotransplantation experiments-- genetically engineering animals to be used as body parts for surgery. The final stop was Philip Morris, owner of Kraft Foods, found guilty of selling the illegal Starlink corn in their products.

These multiple corporate targets were exposed with a Halloween themed flier which described the role they each play in the dangerous push for genetic engineering.

Global Sweatshop Coalition Escalates Campaign in Solidarity with Chentex Factory Workers

The last three months have seen a major escalation of activism in solidarity with striking workers in the Chentex factory by NYC's Global Sweatshop Coalition and by anti-sweatshop activists nationwide. Unionized workers in the Chentex factory in Nicaragua's Las Mercedes Free Trade Zone earn just twenty cents for every pair of jeans they sew, despite the fact that the jeans retail for thirty to forty dollars. When the workers asked for an 8-cent wage increase per pair of jeans, the bosses fired the entire union leadership along with hundreds of other workers. They put up barbed wire and surveillance cameras, and brought union leaders up on bogus criminal charges. The company threatened to pull its entire operation - including a planned $100 million - out of Nicaragua and go elsewhere.

Labor rights activists in the US have made supporting the Chentex workers' struggle a major priority. In cities around the nation, activists have protested Kohl's stores, which carry jeans and jeans shorts made by Chentex. While activists are not calling for a boycott, they are pressuring Kohl's to use it's influence over Chentex to demand that the factory rehire the fired workers and grant them their much-deserved wage increase.

In New York, the Global Sweatshop Coalition (GSC), an alliance of The Activism Center at Wetlands Preserve; the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York; the New York Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; the Disney Haiti Justice Campaign; and other groups, have joined the National Labor Committee (NLC) for a series of highly successful actions exposing Kohl's failure to defend the rights of the workers making the garments they sell.

On October 7, NLC and GSC were joined by the NYC Direct Action Network Labor Solidarity Group, Jobs With Justice, the New York Public Interest Group, Long Island Food Not Bombs, the Long Island Animal Defense League, the Tipitapa Upper West Side Sister Cities Project, and others for an aggressive demonstration at the opening of the Kohl's store in Massapequa Park, Long Island.

Close to 300 activists from converged at demonstration organizers. After a brief explanation of the day's plans, one group of protesters marched to the store and another group reboarded the buses which then drove directly into the Kohl's parking lot. The demonstrators then left the buses and marched through the parking lot towards the stores' entrance, chanting, waving their fists in the air, and displaying signs and banners.

Almost immediately police used their nightsticks to create a barrier and ordered the protesters to turn around and leave the premises. Activists stalled as long as possible, but eventiually left the property on police orders, moving very slowly to create the greatest possible nuisance without being arrested.

Once back on the sidewalk the group joined other demonstrators in two large picket lines on the sidewalk on either side of the store. When activists weren't chanting, a range of speakers informed Kohl's customers and demonstrator's of the realities of sweatshop exploitation.

Among the participants in the event were two Chentex workers, who were culminating a national speaking tour on the struggle at Chentex. The two, along with The National Labor Committtee's Charles Kernegan, were interviewd by the many reporters who covered the demostration. On November 25th, the Global Sweatshop Coalition hosted it's 4th Annual March and Rally in Solidarity with Sweatshop Workers. The march began with a rally at Niketown. From there, protesters marched down 5th Avenue, stopping along the way to denounce sweatshop exploiters Gap, Banana Republic, Lord and Taylor. The march was covered by The Associated Press, NY1, and many other media outlets.

Activists returned to Niketown on December 9th, when the National Labor Committee, the Union of Needle and Textile Employees (UNITE), NYPIRG, and the People of Faith Network held their annual Holiday Season of Conscience march The march is the largest anti-sweatshop event of the year, with roughly 3,000 in attendance. Once again, the Kohl's campaign was a major focus, as Charles Kernegan of the National Labor Committee spoke of the miserable living conditions of the workers, and of their bravery in fighting against oppression and intimidation by Chentex. Activists from Wetlands volunteered as marshals at this event, helping to ensure that it ran smoothly. On December 13 at noon, forty labor rights advocates assembled at the New York offices of Alliance Capital, the largest institutional investor in Kohl's. From Alliance, protesters marched to the offices of The Soros Fund, whose general manager, Frank Sica, is on the board of directors of Kohl's. The activists called on Sica to use his position to pressure Chentex to end their unionbusting campaign. Protesters carried a giant puppet of the Soros Fund executive and chanted: "Frank Sica, what do you know? Sweatshop labor's got to go!" Police agents blocked the doors when the protesters tried to enter the building where the Soros Fund has its offices. A four person delegation was allowed to go upstairs, but Sica refused to meet with them.

Back in Nicaragua, negotiations with Chentex have proven useless as the company's representative has most recently stated that he will not rehire any of the union organizers at Chentex, but may consider hiring them at some point in the future at another plant that is owned by the parent company of Chentex. The union considers these to be unacceptable terms. The Global Sweatshop Coalition and the National Labor Committee will support the workers' efforts until justice is served.