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A Checklist for Effective Campaigning
By Maggie Poe, Fighting the Global Sweat Shop newsletter, issue 1, Spring 1997
Following article was scanned from "Fighting the Global Sweat Shop" - A Newsletter for Workers and Activist [Issue #1, Spring - 1997].
For Comments, suggestions, and inquiries write to the Editorial Collective, Fighting The Global Sweatshop, 30 Seaman Ave., #3F, New York, NY 10034, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Ph:1-212-645-5230
[ *Fighting the Global Sweatshop* has received the following list of suggestions from the National Labor Committee (NLC), based on strategies that have worked for that organization in its campaigns. The list was compiled by Maggie Poe.]
NLC is a non profit human rights organization which organizes corporate campaigns around the issue of worker rights, focussing on the maquila industry in Central America and the Caribbean. Our recent tussles have been with the Gap, Kathie Lee Gifford, and the Disney Company. These campaigns were quite different, but I've checklisted some of the strategies we commonly use:
GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT
An editor of a major mainstream magazine was keen on doing a piece on overseas sweatshop labor, but needed the facts and figures. It just so happened that we knew how much the sewing worker got paid per hem, how many garments were sewn each day, and plenty more of this kind of minutia. We knew how much rice cost, how much a dose of malaria medicine cost, etc. We also had hard evidence. We could provide all the information the editor- could want. We all know the oppression is out there, but nothing shows that we know like numbers.
AVOID THE BIG PICTURE, FOCUS ON THE UNDERSTANDABLE
The NLC's work deals with racism, sexism, globalism, neoliberalism, and a dozen other "ism's. But many people are not enlightened by these terms. Why talk in general terms when we can say, "Look, you're paying $19.97 for this shirt. The worker received $.06 for sewing it. She can't afford to live and you are being gypped." The flip side of this is:
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE PUBLIC
Keep your message clear and fact-laden; the public will "get it." I presented to a group of high school students from a depressed area of Staten Island. I just put the facts on the table and we talked about power. These kids GOT IT in a big way. No one needs to spell out manipulation, racism, or power imbalance to them.
Worker rights is one issue on which almost everyone can agree. We very intentionally reach out to "mainline" religious groups, labor unions, women's groups, and schools.
LET OTHER GROUPS DO THEIR "THANG"
Disney recently had a shareholders meeting. The NLC doesn't know the first thing about stocks strategy. Fortunately, Progressive Asset Management does, and they did a fantastic job of pushing forward a resolution about sourcing guidelines. Now everyone working on sweatshop issues with Disney has more leverage.
PICK TARGETS CAREFULLY
We need to have access to reliable facts and details about the working conditions and daily lives of the workers, and also information about the companies. Kathie Lee Gifford donated some of her profits to children's charities, which made the child exploitation that much worse. Disney CEO Michael Eisner earned $97,000 / hour in 1993, a startling contrast to the $.35/hour earned by Haitian workers sewing Disney garments.
PICK TARGETS WHERE THE IMAGE IS IMPORTANT
Image, much more than sales, is what they'll lose in a well-run campaign. The NLC never calls for boycotts; it's enough for Disney to know that there are now thousands and thousands of - - elementary students who understand that it is not just about fun and family values. Our hope is that when enough of the image M conscious big names are on board they will force the other companies, who do not care about their image but only about the bottom line, to adopt similar fair practices.
ONCE YOU CHOOSE A TARGET, STICK WITH IT
Our campaigns are much more effective when we concentrate on one target until progress is made. We receive calls asking our opinions on Nike and Reebok, or domestic sweatshops. Other groups, however, have targetted them, so we send the callers to those partners.
KEEP IT FRESH
Demonstrations, rallies, petition signings, and media work are the backbone, but fresh ideas move the work. The maquilla workers' U.S. tour as part of the Gap campaign, videos such as Zoned for Slavery and Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti, workers personally confronting Kathie Lee Gifford were all instrumental. Use humor as much as possible. Be open to inspired creativity
FOCUS YOUR WORK
The NLC was recently invited to speak at a local high school conference on media technology and the global economy. Sadly, we had to turn it down. One of our resources in scarce supply is time. Every speech, media contact, and conference should be about the campaign. In short, a wise use of what you have in short supply-which is probably time and money-combined with a liberal and dedicated application of facts and people will be our strongest strategy in campaigns. Good luck'.