The Carillon (Regina)
October 23, 2007
FIGHTING AMERICAN EAGLE’S VULTURE CULTURE
REGINA (CUP) – A grass roots campaign launched by an international labour union is calling for a boycott of American Eagle products and Canadian students’ unions are getting on board.
UNITE HERE, a conglomerate of two labour unions representing more than 450,000 active members, launched American Vulture, alleging that warehouse workers at the apparel company’s distribution centres are treated poorly and subjected to heavy-handed anti-union propaganda.
In April, workers at National Logistics Services (NLS), the company that manages American Eagle’s Canadian distribution, applied to join UNITE HERE. Soon after, their workplace was flooded with anti-union propaganda.
According to the American Vulture website, American Eagle’s campaign included “hiring a US-based labour relations firm that arranged daily two-hour anti-union meetings, hung huge ‘vote no’ posters in the workplace, and mailed an anti-union DVD to workers’ homes.”
The majority of NLS workers voted against unionization in April 2007.
The Web site goes on to allege that workers “had not received raises in two to three years, lacked a fair process to move into permanent employment, dealt with daily disrespect from management, and faced unfair policy changes like increased hours before overtime is paid.”
While NLS is not operated by American Eagle Outfitters, (AEO) they are contracted to provide services. Alex Dagg, UNITE HERE’s Canadian co-director, feels that the mistreatment of those employees violates AEO’s code of conduct.
AEO’s code of conduct stipulates that, “vendors and contractors must respect the rights of employees to associate freely, join organizations of their choice and bargain collectively without unlawful interference”.
“American Eagle needs to make its code of conduct real – not just on paper. Even though they are not in control of the distribution processes, they still have to take the consequences,” said Dagg.
Canadian students are heeding the call. Already a half dozen students’ unions have passed motions supporting the boycott, including the students’ societies at McGill University, Universite de Montreal and Queen’s University.
“It is important for Canadian young adults to participate in the American Eagle boycott campaign because they are the target customers of AE, and that’s who the company will listen to,” said Nell Geiser, American Vulture’s campaign coordinator.
“This is a situation where Canadian workers, many of whom are young people, faced US-style union-busting tactics from management and it is important for us to fight back against companies that are trying to import Wal-Mart style labour relations into Canada.”
Some local awareness activities have been held in urban centres through protests and pamphleteer.
“The more AE corporate headquarters hears that people know about the workers’ rights abuses at NLS, they will have to pay attention and resolve this issue,” said Geiser.