Super Bowl Halftime Sponsor Bridgestone Firestone Continues to Exploit Workers in Liberia

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tim Newman, tim.newman@ilrf.org, 617-823-9464 or 202-347-4100 ext. 113

Super Bowl Halftime Sponsor Bridgestone Firestone Continues to Exploit Workers in Liberia

WASHINGTON - This Sunday, millions of sports fans around the world will watch
this year's National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl Halftime show
sponsored by Bridgestone and featuring Bruce Springsteen. Meanwhile,
the halftime show's title sponsor will continue its long history of
exploitation of workers and the environment in Liberia.

Since 1926, Bridgestone Firestone has operated the world's largest
rubber plantation in Harbel, Liberia. Workers on the plantation have
long faced incredibly poor living and working conditions. Firestone
rubber tappers live in crowded shacks without running water,
electricity or indoor latrines and are required to meet an unreasonably
high production quota in order to receive their meager pay.

After a long struggle, workers finally held the first free and fair
union election and signed their first contract negotiated by a
democratically elected and independent union leadership in August 2008.
The agreement was a major step forward in the long struggle of workers
to protect their rights. However, since the time the agreement was
signed, Firestone management has failed to implement many of the
important improvements in the new contract. For example, the new
contract reduced the size of the production quota, but many workers
throughout the plantation report that they are still being forced to
produce at the old quota level which means they must hire
subcontractors or use the labor of their family members in order to
finish their work and be paid. Firestone has also not fully implemented
health and safety improvements in the new contract and has not provided
transportation for all of the children on the plantation to access
schools as the contract says they should.

Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum,
said, "Bridgestone Firestone needs to stop playing games with workers
and their families in Liberia. The halftime show sponsor should
immediately honor its commitments in the historic contract signed with
the workers in Liberia and the NFL should refuse to renew any contracts
with Bridgestone until they can play fair in Liberia."

Robert Nyahn, Program Officer of Save My Future Foundation-Liberia,
said, "If Bridgestone Firestone could stop spending money to fake its
public relation and spend half of that money to provide basic social
services for its employees and respect their rights, that would be one
the best public relations campaigns and one that we would all support.
Unfortunately, they chose to sponsor the Super Bowl Halftime show as a
clear deception to the sports fan and a disservice to the ill-treated
‘slave-like' employees in Liberia."

Concerned sports fans are being encouraged to participate in an
e-mail action campaign targeting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and
Bridgestone Americas CEO Mark Emkes: http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/NFL09

For more information about the Stop Firestone campaign, please visit www.StopFirestone.org.

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ILRF is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. ILRF serves a unique role among human rights organizations as advocates for and with working poor around the world. We believe that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests.

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