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Labor Lessons Through the Lens of Liberia
September 8, 2011 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Firestone Tire and Rubber, the American icon, has violated the rights of workers, abused child labor, and destroyed the environment with dumping of toxic wastes in Liberia, West Africa since their operations began in 1926. Liberia remains the largest rubber operations in the world and Firestone is the largest employer in the country. The heaviest load in Firestone’s largest rubber operation is still being born by the women and children of Liberia.
Attend this lunchtime briefing with Austin Natee, who heads the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL). Under Austin’s leadership FAWUL has been fighting to end the abuse of child labor and advance the rights of the workers in Firestone’s operations in Liberia, West Africa. Earlier this year, FAWUL received the Iqbal Masih Award from the U.S. Department of Labor. The award was established by Congress to recognize the work of an individual, company, organization or national government to end the worst forms of child labor. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said: “This award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union to combat the worst forms of child labor internationally.” Austin is in the U.S. for the annual convention of the United Steelworkers which represents Firestone workers in the U.S. and has been working in solidarity with the workers in Liberia.
Austin Natee is president of the union that represents the thousands of Liberian rubber workers who earn $3 on a good day, but whose hard labor creates the profits that Bridgestone Firestone uses to sponsor marquee events like Super Bowl half time shows and inaugural races like the Baltimore Grand Prix. Austin was himself a child laborer in Firestone’s plantation and has now committed himself to fighting for the rights of workers in the rubber industry and beyond.