And we’re not kidding about fantastic victories -- just in the past three months, we’ve won some campaigns that no one thought possible, like getting the FCC to regulate predatory prison phone companies, and getting Whole Foods to create a certification process to help chocolate producers remove child labor from their supply chains. You’re also helping us achieve progress on a host of other campaigns, from siding with striking Walmart workers to stopping Uganda’s horrific gay death penalty bill.
We wanted to take some time to catch you up on everything that we’ve been pouring over these past few months, and let you know that your actions are having a real impact on the lives of others. Thank you for all that you do.
--Kaytee Riek, Campaigns Manager, SumOfUs.org
MAKING WAVES! Walmart: End factory deathtraps in Bangladesh
Background: In November, a fire tore through the Tazreen garment factory, a Walmart supplier in Bangladesh. Emergency exits were locked from the outside, and managers told workers to return to their sewing machines as smoke filled the factory. 112 workers were killed. Weeks later, the New York Times revealed that Walmart executives had been aware of the dangers in their Bangladeshi factories, but had blocked a program to improve fire safety.
Partners: The International Labor Right Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Corporate Action Network, Change To Win, and Jobs with Justice.
What we want: We want Walmart to sign onto the Bangladeshi Fire Safety Agreement, an independently monitored program which requires global retailers to provide funds for improved fire safety in their Bangladeshi suppliers.
Current status: Over 110,000 of us signed a petition calling on Walmart to strengthen fire safety in the factories it buys from worldwide, and we delivered the petition during a rally at Walmart's lobbying headquarters. Walmart has claimed that it toughened rules governing its Bangladeshi suppliers, but these reforms are meaningless without independent monitoring funding for basic safety measures. So now we're raising the stakes by collectively donating $20,000 to bring both a Bangladeshi labor activist, and a survivor of the deadly Tazreen factory fire to confront Walmart executives.
Read More: The original petition | Shareable graphic | Fundraiser | Petition delivery photos
Press coverage: Huffington Post
VICTORY! No child labor at Whole Foods
Background: Whole Foods, America’s largest organic retailer, likes to brag about its efforts to popularize fair trade goods. But Whole Foods shelves were partially stocked with cheap chocolate produced by forced child labor.
Partners: The Teamsters and the International Labor Rights Forum
What we want: We wanted Whole Foods to commit to only selling certified fair trade chocolate, since only independent supply chain certification can guarantee that chocolate is free of child slavery, which runs rampant in the cocoa industry. Additionally, we wanted Whole Foods to stop doing business with companies that continue to profit from child slavery in the chocolate industry.
Current status: Whole Foods agreed to create a certification process to help chocolate producers monitor and control their supply chain. Whole Foods will challenge suppliers to improve working conditions in their fields, by creating quality-based ratings system. This system will help encourage any companies that sell to Whole Foods to remove child labor from their supply chains.
Read More: The original petition
VICTORY! FCC: Regulate prison phone rates
Background: A small handful of telecom companies with monopoly contracts can impose exorbitant phone costs -- upwards of $1 a minute -- on prisoners and their families. Most states do not regulate rates, since they frequently receive kickbacks from highly profitable phone operators. These rates exploit vulnerable people, including the 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent, and, by cutting them off from their families, increase the rate convicts will commit another crime upon release.
Partners: The Prison Policy Institute and the Center for Media Justice
What we want: We want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect incarcerated people and their families from exploitation by regulating interstate phone call rates.
Current status: After circulating the petition to our list, we received over 36,000 signatures and more than 2,000 original comments to the FCC. On the day we delivered the comments, the FCC announced that it would be issuing new rules to lower long distance rates for prisoners.
Read More: The original petition
Press coverage: Afro
MARKED PROGRESS! Pepsi: Speak out against the Uganda Kill the Gays bill
Background: Ugandan legislators are considering legislation that would institute the death penalty for gays and lesbians, and allies in Uganda felt that if multinational companies spoke out publicly against the bill, it would sway Members of Parliament (MPs) on the fence to vote against it. Pepsi has a history of supporting equality and has a massive presence in Uganda.
Partners: Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Health GAP
What we want: We asked Pepsi to publicly oppose the bill and communicate its opposition to MPs in the Ugandan Parliament.
Current status: Over 116,000 signatures were delivered to Pepsi HQ in December, and, we took out an ad in Advertising Age, an industry publication, to get Pepsi's attention. Just this week, Pepsi's VP of Global Policy and Government Affairs met with Kaytee, our Campaign Manager. He heard our concerns, and agreed to continue watching the situation closely, and ensure Pepsi uses its voice effectively to stop passage of the bill. To that end, we are putting Pepsi executives in touch with LGBTI groups in Uganda so they can coordinate opposition on the ground.
As far as the bill itself, thankfully it did not pass before the Ugandan Parliament disbanded for Christmas. But allies in Uganda warn that there is a good chance the bill will be considered when Parliament reconvenes next week, so we will stay in touch with allies in Uganda and make sure Pepsi keeps its word to help stop this horrible law.
Read More: Original petition | Our ad in Advertising Age
Press Coverage: Huffington Post | All Africa | Queerty | Dan Savage
MASSIVE ACTION! Walmart: Stop selling assault weapons
Background: Walmart is the largest gun retailer in the country, and sells assault rifles -- including the AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook shooting -- at hundreds of its stores across the US. In the wake of the tragic shooting of 20 children in Newtown, CT, Americans joined together to fight against easy access to assault rifles.
Partners: Courage Campaign, MomsRising.org, Change.org
What we want: We demanded that Walmart stop selling military-grade assault rifles, like those used in recent mass shootings, entirely.
Current status: Nearly 300,000 people, including 115,000 SumOfUs.org members, signed the petitions to Walmart. 60 people delivered those signatures, along with a letter from 75 survivors of mass shootings, at the Walmart just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary one month after the tragic shooting. The petition delivery was covered in over one thousand media outlets, including USA Today, CNN and Bloomberg. Walmart released a statement that it respected its customers and would follow the law -- a pointless statement that shows we need to keep the pressure on Walmart until these guns are no longer on the shelves next to baby food and school clothes.
Read More: Original petition | Our delivery
Press: USA Today | Bloomberg | US News & World Report
VICTORY! Pfizer, leave the Heartland Institute!
Background: The Heartland Institute has long been a right-wing front group for corporate climate change apologists and tobacco companies looking to overturn against nicotine regulation. Early last year, the Heartland Institute unveiled its most outrageous campaign yet when it compared advocates of carbon regulation to terrorists and serial killers. Shortly after the backlash began, and thanks to the work of SumOfUs.org and Forecast the Facts, Heartland lost over half its funding, but Pfizer, a major donor, stubbornly remained.
Partner: Forecast the Facts, 350
What we want: We wanted Pfizer to join over twenty other groups in fleeing the Heartland Institute.
Current status: Victory! In November, Pfizer announced that it had decided not to renew its annual funding for the Heartland Institute, depriving the group of a major source of income. Thanks to your work, the Heartland Institute has been so defunded and demoralized that it was forced to cancel its annual climate denial conference.
Read More: The original petition
Press coverage: Think Progress
Partners: Warehouse Workers United, Warehouse Workers for Justice, OUR Walmart, and Making Change at Walmart
What we want: We want to help Walmart workers win the respect they deserve from management. We want to see Walmart end retaliation and sit down with workers to see how it can treat its employees fairly.
Current status: When Walmart workers went on strike, SumOfUs.org members around the world donated over $75,000 to support striking Walmart workers. It was our most successful fundraiser ever! In fact, we raised so much that the workers' organization, OUR Walmart was able to use some extra money to hire Walmart associates who had been working to improve working conditions as organizers, starting with Semetra Lee, of Richmond, CA. Semetra was a temporary worker who began working with OUR Walmart after experiencing bullying and racism at her position. She was written up, and her contract was not renewed due to her activity organizing her fellow workers.
Walmart is starting to feel the impact of these strikes. In January, Walmart committed to improving its scheduling system and implementing a monitoring program to improve conditions in its warehouses -- key victories for OUR Walmart and Warehouse Workers United members. Of course, these changes aren't enough -- for instance, the warehouse monitoring program is based on Walmart's disastrous global monitoring program, which allowed the Tazreen fire in Bangladesh to happen. So Walmart workers will keep fighting, and we'll be there to support them
Read More: Original petition | Striking worker solidarity statement | Campaign donation page | Our ads blanketing Walmart's hometown newspapers
Press coverage: Los Angeles Times | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Thanks for reading, and for continuing to support our growing movement for corporate accountability.