GREEN YOUR SCHOOL: NYU’s Student & Labor Action Movement

A USAS "speak-out" demonstration marked the six-month anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.

As students start getting ready to go back to school, some of them are also getting ready to embark upon a new year of greening their campuses. Green America editorial fellow Sari Amiel discovered five inspiring examples of how students are making their campuses more socially just and environmentally sustainable. Every Monday and Wednesday from August 14th through August 27th, we’ll post one […]

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VICTORY: Apple to Remove Two Potent Toxins from Supplier Factories

Green America's campaigns director Elizabeth O'Connell gears up for our April 25th protest at Apple's flagship store in New York City

This spring, Green America’s End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign, in partnership with China Labor Watch (CLW), called on Apple to remove toxic chemicals including benzene and n-hexane from its supplier factories in China. Only five months into the campaign, Apple announced in August that it would “explicitly prohibit the use of benzene and n-hexane” at 22 of its final-assembly supplier factories. […]

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The Blame Game

Preventable Factory Fire in China Once Again Not Prevented Co-written by Joey Friedman 75 Chinese workers at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Production Co.  perished in a factory explosion on Saturday, August 2nd. Zhongrong makes automotive parts for General Motors Co. and other auto makers. Dense with dust, its believed the unfiltered air combusted upon contact with a heat source. Like many unfortunate factory fires, this could have been prevented by installing a simple ventilation system. In an attempt to avoid responsibility, few head employees were willing to speak or take action after the explosion. Factory Chairman Wu Ji-tao was not found within reach for comment. The factory’s online contact, Zhang Ying refused to answer any questions regarding the blast. According to a report by The New York Times, China’s top work-safety agency pointed to local government to take on responsibility for the tragic event. Government officials are currently refusing to comment. Citic Dicastal Wheel Manufacturing Co., wheel-makers that subcontract orders to Zhongrong is also not available for comment. General Motors deflects its relationship with the factory, making clear that is sources its parts through Citic Dicastal, its tier 1 supplier, and has no direct relationship with Zhongrong, this tier 2 supplier. Of the more than 260 people onsite at the time of the explosion on early Saturday morning, 75 have died and nearly 200 are injured. Combustible dust is a widely known manufacturing hazard. As a metal polishing plant, Zhongrong should […]

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Putting an end to Human Trafficking in Thailand’s fishing sector

Last Friday, the US State Department released its 2014 Global Trafficking in Persons Report—an annual report that documents human trafficking around the world and each country’s efforts to combat the issue.   In this report, State downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, demonstrating that the Thai government is not compliant with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, particularly with regard to its treatment of migrant workers. This is especially evident in the fishing sector. In fact, there are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand. The majority of them, 80 percent, came from Myanmar and work in the most dangerous, dirty jobs, including seafood harvesting and processing, manufacturing, and domestic work. This decision came after Green America and our allies sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to make this decision so that economic sanctions could be imposed to influence the Thai government’s efforts in preventing human trafficking. You can read the original letter we sent to Secretary Kerry as well as the thank you letter we sent with our allies on Friday applauding this decision. While it’s not good news that Thailand has fallen to Tier 3 status, we hope that this decision will lead to urgent action in Thailand to improve the situation for migrant workers. In the last year, reports from, CNN, BBC, Reuters, The Associated Press and The Guardian have drawn unprecedented attention to the issue and consumer pressure campaigns have also launched to push companies […]

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#GreenFest: A Higher Calling for our Fair Trade Clothing Panel

FTapparel

When Elizabeth O’Connell, Green America’s campaigns director, invited Claire Wickland of Alta Gracia and Megan McManus of Amani DC to speak on the ethical apparel panel at the DC Green Festival, she didn’t realize one key commonality embedded in the names of their organizations.  “Alta Gracia,” it turns out, means “high grace,” in Spanish, while “Amani Ya Juu” (parent organization […]

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Domestic Work is Real Work

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Did you know there is a whole sector of American workers who do not have the right to organize, to overtime pay, or legal protection from workplace discrimination and harassment? Domestic workers, such as those providing care for children and the elderly, are actually exempt from a large number of the employment rights many Americans take for granted. Excluded from the Fair […]

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Sweatshop Conditions in the US: The Problem of Wage Theft

Photo credit: torbakhopper on Flickr

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides “standards for the basic minimum wage and overtime pay, affects most private and public employment. It requires employers to pay covered employees who are not otherwise exempt at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay,” according to the United States Department of Labor. Laws such […]

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Buying Sweatshop-Free in the USA

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In the last issue of the Green American, we looked at labor abuses in the US. We’d found that the Made in the USA label doesn’t necessarily mean the product was made under decent (or even legal) working conditions. US workers are often subjected to sweatshop-like conditions, sexual violence, prison-like working conditions, and other forms of exploitation. Fortunately, there are […]

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Your Rights as an American Worker

Despite the promise of certain legal rights to safe, healthy, and fair work conditions, sweatshops and slavery still exist here in the United States. As exposed in last month’s issue of The Green American, “Fair Labor at Home,” in fleeing from terrible working conditions in their native countries, many immigrants are flung from the frying pan into the fire. Seeing their precarious financial or legal situation, certain unscrupulous employers will sometimes lure desperate immigrants into their employment with promises of a better life, only to subject them to the very conditions many were trying to escape in the first place. While in very sad cases employers use economic coercion, threats of deportation, or physical force to exploit their workers, part of the battle is knowing your rights as a worker. After all, how can you know when your rights are being violated and thus be incited to action, if you weren’t aware you had rights in the first place? So whether you’re just touching down on American soil for the first time or have never left it, it’s important to get acquainted with your legal rights. That’s why we here at Green America have compiled a short list of some of your most fundamental rights as a worker.   A quick caveat: The information provided in this post does not constitute legal advice. It is merely a list of certain legal rights and certain resources that can describe your rights […]

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