Facebook Playing Duck-and-Cover, Distraction, and Delay

AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Nashville     Quit Facebook?  How can we?  There are countries ACORN works where Facebook and the internet are synonymous.  We have learned how to use Facebook as an organizing tool in England in recruiting members to the ACORN Tenant Union.  We use it as a communications tool in many of our organizing drives and campaigns.  Facebook is a substitute website for many of our efforts.  We use its calling service between some of our offices because it is better than Skype.  In places like Honduras and many countries in Europe, WhatsApp is as important, and often more useful, than knowing someone’s mobile phone number.  My own family shares information on a separate WhatsApp group for just the four of us.

So, just because we can’t quit, doesn’t mean we like Facebook.  On, no, don’t make that mistake.

Of course, there’s the privacy thing, but we’re fighting guided missiles with toothpicks whether it’s Facebook, Google, Amazon, or the rest of the tech terrors. Unless you’re whispering, forget about it.

Facebook is increasingly standing at the front of the line as the face of the evil empire.  The steady dripping and dropping of bad news about the company and their foot dragging and lame ass excuses for their irresponsible and dissembling conduct is even causing their stock price to drop which may get their attention because it seems to be about the only thing that CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and his number 2 partner Sheryl Sandberg really care about in addition to the profit-and-loss statement.

Now with new revelations in a deeply reported story in the New York Times, about the internal machinations of the company and its efforts to avoid scrutiny, evade responsibility, deflect and harm competitors, and resist regulation, our distrust of the company and its leadership is on steroids.  They hired a Republican, rightwing opposition research company to try to hurt their competitors when they were under attack.  They tried to claim that protestors angry at Facebook’s antics and mismanagement were being paid by George Soros.  They leveraged contributions to defamation groups to claim that protest actions singling out Zuckerberg and Sandberg were anti-Semitic because of their religion rather than their irresponsibility.  They cashiered their security chief for investigating the Russian exploitation of their platform and telling board members the truth about the inadequacy of their effort to stop it.  Sandberg, as supervisor of their political efforts, hired Republican lobbyists and tried to manipulate key Senators and Congressman on both sides of the aisle by shifting positions on certain bills, hiring their staff, and direct contributions and threats.  New York Senator Chuck Schumer was compromised and enlisted in this effort with a child working for Facebook.  Perhaps worse, according to company insiders, Sandberg and Zuckerberg were so concerned about their “brands,” their legacy, and their own personal interests, projects, and ambitions, that they let their self-interest trump the public interest of all of their users.  This is not just mismanagement this is plain and simple terrible and unaccountable leadership.

Need I say, that’s not all.

The long call for grownups in the room is a misdirection pass.  With 2.2 billion users, Facebook is a global force.

For all of our sakes here and around the world, we need to get a grip and regulate this company so that it does no more harm.  We need to see management change and rules put in place, and we need to see it done now.

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Gildan T-Shirts are a Tight Fit for Workers in Honduras

Protest outside a Gildan plant in Honduras after a worker gets fired.

San Pedro Sula     ACORN in Honduras has almost one-hundred members in the town of El Progresso, one of the many maquila centers for out-of-country manufacturing companies on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula and this area which is the industrial heart of Honduras.  Since the biggest employer is Gildan, the Montreal-based t-shirt and textile company with a 1300-worker factory in town, not surprisingly some of our members work there.

After some chaos with directions, I found the union offices of FUSEP Sindicato SITRASTAR that represents workers at the El Progresso Gildan plant.  Of the fifteen Gildan plants in Honduras, I learned that the El Progresso plant was the only one with an independent workers’ union.  There are three others that were described as having company unions, leaving eleven with no representation.  Gildan has 24,000 workers in Honduras of its 42,000 globally, so this is a huge center of their production.

Wikipedia makes the comment – without sourcing – that Gildan’s practice of fast lines and low pay allows them to undercut Chinese factories.  Maybe so, maybe no.  Gildan’s global footprint seems to map the textile industries race to the bottom for wages with plants elsewhere in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Haiti.  Abuses at the factory in Haiti has attracted the attention of the Workers Rights’ Consortium (WRC) in several reports.

Union officials told me that they had recently signed a new four-year agreement.  Their situation was better than what they understood from talking to workers in other plants in Honduras, but there was no bragging about the contract.  They clearly had felt like they had signed the contract with a gun to their heads and the threat of the plant closing if they didn’t accept the terms.  Unless I misunderstood, they had ended up with a reduced and conflated piece rate, mandatory overtime, and a line speedup, much of which was imposed unilaterally. Heads were shaking without smiles over these developments.  Carpal tunnel and repetitive motion problems were rampant from everyone’s reports.

And, these were the workers that had it best in Gildan Honduras!  We spent a long time in the meeting hearing about reports from other plants in the north, partially around Rio Nance, where Gildan had an even larger concentration of factories and workers.  There were rumors that WRC was in contact with the company about these conditions and waiting for a response concerning various abuses.  It almost goes without saying that I heard numerous reports of plant activists being fired for beginning to organize in the factories.

This is the devil and the deep blue sea in lower wage worker exploitation.  24,000 jobs is huge in a country like Honduras.  A threat to pack up and move to even lower wage countries is impossible to ignore, because that has been the sordid tale for most of the textile industry, not just Gildan.

For our own members and these workers, ACORN and our allies will have to see how we can stand in solidarity here.  In a month when ACORN Canada is meeting in Montreal, this will be on the agenda.  Nonetheless, it’s a stacked deck with few good cards to play in our hands.

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