The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) joined forces with local Garment Workers on Sunday Night in a spectacular demonstration on Santa Monica's third street promanade; specifically protesting exploitative textile manufacturer Forever 21, but also calling for an end to all economic injustice.
This was a glorious moment of the the Rise Up 2002 campaign to bring
consciousness from one coast to the next and from all over the globe to the
footsteps of the very companies exploiting workers the world over.
Not one company was spared in this tour of shame as demonstrators packed the
normally tranquil shopping citadel and marched from the mall at the south end
of the promenade up to Wilshire. Marchers stopped directly infront of stores
such as the Gap notorious for sweatshop abuses to demand "no more sweatshop
Bebe was not left out, as well dressed women couldn't help but stop in
the middle of their purchases to take notice of the marchers demands for fair
wages for sweatshop workers.
A high point of the evening occured when
demonstrators skipped to the east side of the street to address sweatshop
abuses by Tommy Hillfiger chanting directly to the clerks and customers
inside. The film Life and Debt recently screened by the Los Angeles Independent Media
Center describes Tommy Hillfigers flagrant abuse of sweatshop conditions in
the free zones of Jamaica.
The streets normally recognized by neatly trimmed lights and park benches
were filled with workers, students, organizers raising consciousness with
puppets, chants and makeshift drums. Demanding "no justice no peace" and "no
more sweatshop labor" the marchers managed to shut down foot traffic and
shopping was at a stand still for the duration of the parade.
Many demonstrators had taken part in the Rise Up 2002 workshop at UCLA
earlier that afternoon to study a larger history of political movements and
labor movements in countries such as Mexico and Brazil. Many student groups,
labor groups and other solidarity groups joined to give teach-ins about
strategy and coalition building.
At the conclusion of the march Maria Pineda a worker involved in the Forever
21 lawsuit spoke about her own conditions as a garment worker. After several
starts, her voice trembling with excitement and the audience cheering her on,
she began to speak about being forced to work for wages below the minimum
standard and being exploited by the company. Conditions in the factories have
been described as unsanitary with reports of rat and cockroach infestation.
Gerardo Reyes, a farm worker involved in the Taco Bell boycott, described the
strategy of the tour of shame demonstration at the promenade.
"Now we are destroying their image until they pay what they have to pay to
As the two coalitions united to create a large show of force on a popular
shopping day he concluded by saying "It is important to see solidarity coast
to coast, all over the country."