Campaigners in the USA have long used consumer boycotts against a wide range of potential targets. In this Issue we look at three typical campaigns.
Californian grape growers’ victory
“The consumer boycott is the only open door in the dark corridor of nothingness down which farm workers have had to walk for many years. It is a gate of hope through which they expect to fnd the sunlight of a better life for themselves and their families.” (Cesar Chavez)
This summer saw the fortieth anniversary of one of the most important boycott victories in US history. In 1970 the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) ended their boycott when defeated Californian grape growers agreed to sign contracts with the union which would improve conditions for thousands of farm workers across America.
The unions, led by the late Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, had pitched immigrant farm workers (mostly from Mexico) against powerful agricultural growers in California. Over two and a half years, UFW leaders, members and sympathizers had organized a plethora of actions and events from picket lines and marches, to plays and teach-ins.
At the same time the charismatic Chavez undertook numerous hunger strikes to draw attention to the cause. Key to the success of the campaign was asking consumers around the world to boycott Californian grapes. A wide coalition of consumers, faith groups and trade unions supported the boycott and its success became a template for future actions. However conditions today are still harsh for many agricultural workers. To help draw attention to this the UFW has recently launched a campaign called ‘Take Our Jobs’ (see also the Fruit Juice buyers’ guide in this Issue).
This creative action encourages unemployed Americans to work in the agricultural sector picking fruits and vegetables. They hope by doing this people will gain a better understanding of the situation.
Did you know? Barack Obama adopted the UFW’s slogan: “Si, Se Puede” (“Yes, We Can”) when he ran for president.
Target in boycotters’ sights
US retailer Target has become the subject of a boycott by gay rights campaigners after it was revealed the company donated funds to a lobby group that supports Republican Senator Tom Emmer, a fervent supporter of anti-gay legislation.
Campaigner Matt Baume tracked a donation of $150,000 from Target, through a political action committee (PAC) known as Minnesota Forward, all the way to Tom Emmer. Gay rights campaigners say they feel betrayed by a company that has done much for equal working practices and has supported workers’ benefts for same sex couples. They are outraged that the company is now donating to a politician who in 2007 authored a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Emmer says on his website: “I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman... As a legislator, I have consistently supported the constitutional marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage.”
A Facebook group supporting the boycott now has over 78,000 members and consumers are being asked to send a message to Target urging them to explain this donation, and to adamantly condemn the politics of people like Tom Emmer.
Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that Target’s institutional shareholders have demanded the company overhauls its campaign donation policies. Three fund management frms are sponsoring a shareholder resolution demanding the retailer takes internal action. At the same time, progressive campaign group MoveOn.org has launched a new advert urging shoppers to boycott the retail giant. One network, MSNBC, has refused to air the advert.
Target has now apologized for the donation but rejected a request from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest gay rights advocate, to give an equal amount of money to a pro-gay candidate.
For more information, visit the Facebook site ‘Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics’ or go to http://targetboycott.org and sign the petition.
In April, Arizona Governor Janis Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070, believed by many to be ‘the most radical immigration legislation in the United States’. The Bill’s numerous opponents claim that it effectively permits racial profling, requiring the police to demand immigration papers from anyone who they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ is in the country illegally.
The American civil liberties union says that the bill is unconstitutional and allows local police offcers authority to investigate, detain and arrest people for perceived immigration violations without the beneft of proper training, exacerbating the problem of racial profling and raising concerns about the prolonged detention of citizens and legal residents.
In response to the legislation several groups, including the Service Employees International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have declared a travel boycott of the state. Federal offces in other states have also issued a travel and procurement boycott for its offcers and staff. There are now several Facebook pages and websites dedicated to the action with thousands of members and active participants.
See www.boycottarizona1070.com for more information.
Boycott News from the previous issue / boycott news from the latest issue of EC