The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Bridgestone/Firestone -accused of slavery- buys big on SuperBowl

with 5 comments

UPDATE: Ahhh. I was so glad I had shared this with my church on Sunday morning before the game. The ad I saw was beautiful, even better than I’d expected (after all, how high are one’s expectations of car ads?). Watching it, I was satisfied to know that a few more people found it a reminder that those tires have run over a whole lot of very poor people.

Truth works slowly, but it still sets people free.

Want to help change the world during the Super Bowl? Tell your friends about Bridgestone-Firestone.B-F is spending about $10 million to up their corporate image via ads during the game. They’ll be looking good. But B-F has a very dark secret that makes all the snazzy car shots a little sickening: B-F exploits Africans so egregiously, it’s been accused of slavery. Consider these excerpts from Foreign Policy in Focus:

Liberia is rich in natural resources and Africa’s largest producer of natural rubber. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Liberia’s impoverishment is directly related to the wealth … that because of a history of inequality and exploitation benefits multinational corporations and some wealthy Liberians at the expense of the citizens of Liberia. […] Firestone Natural Rubber Company … has experienced increased international scrutiny for exploiting the people and natural environment of Liberia since … the publishing of a groundbreaking report … entitled “Firestone: The Mark Of Slavery.” […]

Bridgestone/Firestone North American has become the largest tire and rubber company in the world … Firestone’s rubber plantation occupies a large percentage of Liberia’s land mass and was, as a result, for a time responsible for more than half the tax revenue in the country. […]

Firestone’s officially 14,000-person Liberian workforce is comprised mostly (approximately 70%) of rubber tappers … Tappers and their children are held in virtual bondage, isolated from the world on a million—acre plantation and dependent on Firestone for everything from wages to lodging to food and medicine, all of which are desperately inadequate. … housing has not been renovated since its construction in 1926. Most of the houses do not include running water or indoor toilets.

In order to meet the daily quota of approximately 650 trees … it would take [each tapper] almost three full days to complete one day’s quota. As Bridgestone/Firestone North American management does not enforce its child labor policy but does enforce its quotas, parents often bring their children to work in order to meet the daily quotas and garner a barely livable wage. Instead of attending school, these children often work for 10 to 12 hours a day without proper diets and must carry heavy buckets of rubber latex treated with toxic pesticides. […]

The river around the rubber plantation is polluted with the effluence from the factory that spews out chemicals 24-hours a day, seven days a week. […] The company’s human rights and environmental abuses are related to the problem of corporate-led globalization which privileges profits for few over the lives of many.

What if the very ads they paid $10M to show became reminders to the 90 million Super Bowl fans of B-F’s inhuman greed? Maybe it’ll come up where you are. Maybe someone will think of something to do. At the very least, B-F won’t get away with the ruse.

Go get ’em.

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Written by Monte

February 3, 2008 at 1:01 am

5 Responses

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  1. Swandiver’s argument reminds me of a cancer argument that would go like this: “Anything, taken in excess, can be shown to cause cancer. So I might as well smoke.”

    Naaa. Let’s just do what we can.


    February 4, 2008 at 2:07 pm

  2. Apparently “Free trade” won’t improve these situation. According to this article: For the trade deficit economies, which are the majority in the emerging economies, neoliberal global trade makes old-fashion 19th century imperialism look benign.

    More on it here.

    Monte says: Thanks, Homeyra. Good links! The second, that free trade is a myth, is especially well done.


    February 3, 2008 at 3:59 pm

  3. You can take action right NOW by sending an urgent action e-mail to the NFL and Firestone here:

    Visit for more information and ways to take action.


    February 3, 2008 at 2:27 pm

  4. This is somewhat true, which means we need to find some other way to stop this other than simply boycotting. However, with free trade products becoming more and more available this is becoming less and less true. And we can support local people by shopping at their places, or we can make our own clothes, etc.

    It is true however that our society is built around the resources that we recieve through corrupt means. The car is the classic example. Unless you live in a city with a good public transportation system, you cannot survive without a car. And this has more consequences than what resources we need, it also leads us to be more secluded from each other. And our gov spends an insane amount of money improving conditions for car travel as compared to improving public transportation, which makes it worse and worse for those who cannot afford to obtain and maintain a car, thus being one of the many contributing factors to the great divide between the rich and the poor.


    February 3, 2008 at 9:13 am

  5. If people in the western world were to boycott every product or company that exploits people in developing countries, for the most part we’d be naked, cold and starving. There would be no American culture as we know it.

    Monte Says: Really? It’s true there are some things that are hard to find, but we buy fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate. We buy locally produced eggs, honey, vegetables, and meat (when we can). On the web, it’s not hard to find union made or fair trade products in a host of categories. We don’t so much boycott as we do choose the maker whenever we can.

    It sounds like you’re saying, “What’s the use?” But fair trade goods, like organic products, become available as people buy them. You can have a tremendous effect on how the people live who made or grew what you buy, simply by buying what’s fair when you can. Companies change as markets change.

    If American culture can’t exist without exploitation of others, as you suggest, perhaps we’d be better off naked, cold, and starving.


    February 3, 2008 at 1:59 am

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