Sweatshop Workers Speak Out: Building Solidarity in The Global Economy

a discussion w/ Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity

Tuesday, May 4, 5:30-7:30pm

  • Dinner will be served
  • Free and open to the public

Workers in Bangladesh’s garment industry are organizing for basic rights and dignity in the face of some of the harshest worker rights abuses in the world. Join us for a discussion with Kalpona Akter, a former garment worker and Director of Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, on the connections between global trade,immigration and worker rights issues, and how the movements for worker rights in the US and Bangladesh can connect.

Call 989-5860 or email steve@foodandmedicine.org to reserve your spot!

Union Maine Blog

MSEA-SEIU member Tom Maher maintains a blog with news about issues affecting Maine workers at http://unionmaine.blogspot.com.


The Next Governor of Maine

...will be at the Solidarity Center on May Day!

And there's limited seating!

Food AND Medicine and the Eastern Maine Labor Council will celebrate May Day with a meal from 12:00 - 1:15 (lunch featuring Shepherd's pie from local farmers) and a Farmer - Labor Gubernatorial Forum from 1:30 - 3:30.

Gubernatorial candidates Paul LePage, Pat McGowan, Peter Mills, Libby Mitchell, John Richardson, Steven Rowe, and Rosa Scarcelli will be here. Unless there's a major upset, one of those seven will be the next governor of Maine.

This is an opportunity to have them respond to our issues and to show them that we know and care about what our state government does- or fails to do!

This will be the first Farmer Labor Gubernatorial forum since perhaps the 19th century. Be sure to be part of this historic event!

We have seating for only one hundred people, and seating will go fast. Tickets are a suggested $10 donation, an annual fundraiser for Food AND Medicine.

Please contact Steve Husson to reserve seats (989-5860 or steve@foodandmedicine.org).

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CWA International President Larry Cohen to EMLC members: "Continue to Organize"

Cohen was among a panel of labor leaders and union members speaking to the audience at the Penobscot Theater after a showing of the HBO documentary "The Last Truck" in December, 2009. The event was hosted by Food AND Medicine and the Eastern Maine Labor Council as part of lead-up to Solidarity Harvest.

The film documents the closing of the award-winning General Motors truck manufacturing plant in Moraine, Ohio. GM shut the plant down on Dec. 23, 2008. More than 2,500 workers lost their jobs when the Moraine plant, an SUV manufacturing facility bigger than the Pentagon, shut its doors. GM workers did most of the filming inside the plant, while Steven Bognar and Julie Reichert filmed interviews with workers outside the plant's gates.

Workers who have been through lay-offs here in Eastern Maine have described the film as an accurate and emotionally powerful protrayal of workers' experiences in the aftermath of plant closings here and urge everybody in our area - young and old, employed and unemployed, politicians and small businesses owners - to watch the film in order to get a deeper understanding of this problem.

"Where is the class consciousness on our side?" Cohen asked the audience after the final credits had rolled. "Big companies don't support health care reform out of class consciousness on their side. They lock up with the Chamber of Commerce and oppose it. They say 'Everything has to be private sector.'"

Cohen said he hoped that after seeing the film, the audience took away more than just a sad story.

"Our rights as workers are at an all-time low in this country," Cohen said. "It's about the fight for our jobs. We need more than just jobs; slaves have jobs. We need jobs with justice." Cohen said health care reform - his union supports a single-payer health care system - and the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act were key first steps to rebuilding the labor movement.

"We have to continue to organize. That's what we should take from this film," Cohen said.


More on the Solidarity Harvest

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Eastern Maine Religious Leaders and Farmers Support Employee Free Choice

Thanks to the work of numerous Eastern Maine Labor Council and Food AND Medicine members, ten religious leaders and twenty-four farmers have signed letters to Sen. Olympia Snowe asking her to support the Employee Free Choice Act, showing it is not just a "union issue" but a fundamental human rights issue.

Read the Letter from Religious Leaders and the Letter from Maine Farmers

Read the list of faith leaders and farmers who've signed!

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Solidarity Scholarships awarded to three Eastern Maine students

The Eastern Maine Labor Council gives one $500 and two $250 awards each year through the Solidarity Scholarship program to students continuing their education. The primary focus is to get students to think about what solidarity means and to put those thoughts into a short essay. It is administered jointly by the EMLC and Food AND Medicine, and open to members of unions affiliated with the EMLC and members of FAM, plus both groups' relatives. Here are some excerpts of 2009's winning essays:

"There can be no solidarity without community, and in times like these, there can be no community fellowship without a sense of hope that our actions can help make the economy better though creating more good paying union jobs." -- Joanne Bagley

"If everyone works together in solidarity to improve the workplace, change will happen. Now more than ever, it is important for everyone in the community to band together in solidarity and let the chorus of voices be heard." -- Ellie Barker

"Solidarity is necessary to ensure rights and decent lives for the working class. I would define solidarity as people with similar interests and objectives coming together to improve society, intent on helping the less powerful citizens of our country. The needs and wants of the working are frequently underrepresented, and they often struggle for fair economic treatment. Solidarity and the establishment of unions gives those in the working class a means of uniting with others in their situation. They can address issues and obstacles hindering them, and are given the opportunity to propose solutions and make changes for the good of their fellow workers. Solidarity is about making the lives of others better." - Sara Pomeroy

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Worker Center hotline running-1-866-933-WCEM

Nonunion workers finally have somewhere to turn for help with problems on the job, at the new Worker Center of Eastern Maine (WCEM) Hotline.

All calls are completely confidential and will be returned by one of the Worker Center's trained Community Stewards within a few days.