FAIR TRADE, NOT FREE TRADE RALLY

CLOQUET AND DULUTH

OCTOBER 5, 2002

(Click on photos to enlarge)

 

 

It was a looooooong bus ride home!

 

 

 

It was fun.  I liked it when the banner went up on the bridge. ~ Katie Weikum - age 8 - Honorary Local 34 member

      

Saturday was a great experience to learn more about the rights of workers from all over. The events at the Cloquet Wal*Mart and in Duluth were well planned and attended.  It made me more aware of the way workers are treated without Unions. The time on the bus gave me a chance to get acquainted with other Union members, especially with Katie there to ask questions. This event was a good way to support workers rights.  When we got to Cloquet, we chanted WE ARE UNION... and we do stand together with others.
Laura Weikum - Local 34 member

It was a cool crisp fall day when I started my journey to the Fair Trade - Not Free Trade Regional Rally.  I began the day by meeting others who were participating in the caravan to Cloquet and Duluth, Minnesota.  As I pulled up to the meeting place, I was struck by the turn out of the number of people who sacrifice their Saturday to participate in this effort.  When I step out of my car I could feel the excitement building as I walked through the crowd.  When I arrived at the Local 34 bus I was greeted by my sisters and brothers who were participating in this movement.  Andrea Lazo-Rice, Professional Member-at-Large, was kind enough to ensure that our bus was packed with food so we would not starve during our journey.  Nancy Fleming-Norton, Secretary, further motivated us by engaging us in chanting songs regarding protesting like, "We are the union, the mighty mighty union, everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, so we tell them, we are the union".

After arriving in Cloquet  we unloaded the bus, embraced signs, and embarked on our march to Wal-Mart where we rallied on behalf of those employed by this company. After rallying at Wal-Mart we again loaded the bus and departed to our next destination, Duluth's Bayfront Park.  While there we heard from many speakers who talked about injustices that people experience in their work environment locally and nationally.  The speakers discussed injustices such as pay, benefits, sweatshops, denial of employee's rights, unfair policies and unfair practices.

We ended the day by chanting while marching to the Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge where a Fair Trade banner was lifted on the Aerial Lift Bridge.  For those who missed it, you missed a great experience.  Perhaps you will join us in our next movement. In solidarity,
Charissa Bryant, Local 34 member

October 5th Fair Trade, Not Free Trade Rally in Duluth and Cloquet: Thank you for supporting this wonderful event.  The bus ride with our Local's contingent was so much fun.  We invited four AFSCME members from Council 6 to join us. They had not been able to get enough folks together to rent a bus and we had the room so it made sense.  Pictures of the event should be on our website shortly. I am not going to write anything more about this as I would like you to read the following speech given by Ivy Klassen-Glanzer, a senior at Southwest High School in Minneapolis.  She spoke at the protest outside of Wal-Mart in Cloquet and I think that her words are more eloquent than any I could write.  Her speech is printed with her permission.

Wal-Mart.  It has been named the world's largest retailer.  You can thank them for some of the worst sweatshop abuses in the global race to the bottom in denying worker's rights. Sweatshops are factories where workers can be subjected to an endless list of abuses, including being paid wages of poverty, being forced to work excessively long hours without overtime pay, receiving physical and mental abuse, and being subjected to unhealthy working conditions.

Companies use the factories as scapegoats, saying that the situation is” out of their control", or that "they don't own the factories, so they can't force compliance", or simply that it would raise consumer prices to improve working conditions abroad.  Meanwhile, executives at companies like Wal-Mart are becoming the richest and most powerful in the world. Recently in China, factories producing for Wal-Mart have been found to be paying their workers not even half of China's 31-cent minimum wage.  Workers are paid a mere 13 cents an hour, with some employees forced to work 13-20 hour shifts.  This is the real cost of Wal-Mart's "low, low prices."

Wal-Mart is consistently accused with the worst worker rights violations.  Wal-Mart has been named on the long list of companies that have sweatshops in Saipan, a U.S. territory.  Migrant workers from South East Asia are lured to Saipan by the expectation of good "American" working conditions, only to be confronted with 12-14 hour shifts, $3.00 per hour pay, horrible working conditions and deportation for becoming pregnant or organizing any type of union activities.  Recently, workers in Saipan have won a settlement from corporations that have been abusing them for years, Wal-Mart among them. It has been proven time after time that Wal-Mart is one of the worst labor abusers in the world, that they just won't treat the workers with the respect or the dignity due to every human being.  This abuse has to stop!  Wal-Mart must change! What we ask of Wal-Mart are simple, fundamental things that will ensure that workers' rights are being respected.

WE DEMAND - full disclosure of the names and locations of their factories:  Because we deserve to know where, for how much, and under what conditions the products we buy are being made.

WE DEMAND - Independent monitoring: Because only then can we trust the investigations.

WE DEMAND - Respect for workers' right to organize: Because too many workers' needs go unfulfilled, and too many union organizers have lost their jobs.

WE DEMAND - Living wage: So that workers' children can go to school instead of work, so that families can meet as least their basic needs and have enough to eat every single day.

AS the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart has the responsibility to set an example for other companies, but until they implement fair and ethical labor practices both at home and abroad, we will be here, day after day, demanding change.  We will not join Wal-Mart in the race to the bottom! Jean Diederich - Local 34 member

It was particularly inspiring to see the thousands of union and environmental groups who traveled to Cloquet and Duluth on a Saturday to make the case for “Fair Trade Not Free Trade. Workers and family members from the Midwest region and Canada collectively sharing a message and taking a stand against the poor working conditions and benefits of WalMart employees was invigorating. It reminded me somewhat of my college days when we took to the streets in an effort to achieve human dignity and justice for a variety of causes. Did you know that working at WalMart doesn’t pay? “Associates”, as WalMart calls them, work an average of 28 hours a week and only earn $7.50 per hour, or $10,920 a year – nearly $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. WalMart sells health insurance to its “associates“, but because the plan is so expensive, less than 40% of the company’s workers participate. This plan is especially hurtful to women who make up approximately 70% of WalMart’s workforce. I would encourage all of you to take the time to educate yourselves regarding this issue and do what you can to change things for the future. John Herzog – Local 34 member