Archive for June, 2010
This video is from independent photographer and ally, Bill Hughes. Check out his YouTube channel for more videos documenting social justice struggles.
Also, check out Bill’s flickr photoset
ESPN Zone workers along with fellow low-wage workers across the Inner Harbor will be at ESPN Zone — Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 11 AM — to put Disney-owned ESPN Zone on notice for human rights violations, including violating the WARN Act, shutting their doors without giving workers the legal 60 days notice prior to closure. Workers are demanding to be treated with dignity and will call on ESPN Zone to meet face-to-face with workers to resolve this gross abuse or workers human rights. On Wednesday, workers will set a seven day deadline for the ESPN Zone to respond, during which time, in good faith, workers will not pursue legal action.
What: Press Conference putting ESPN Zone on Notice
When: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 11 AM
Where: ESPN Zone at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor
After years of being unaccountable for paying poverty wages, stealing workers’ wages, putting workers on probation for being sick, and a denying basic worker dignity, Baltimore’s ESPN Zone decided to close its doors on hundreds of workers.
To add insult to injury, the ESPN Zone planned to shut the restaurant down without providing workers any notice! The plan was to have workers show up as scheduled to find the restaurant doors locked for good. The plan failed. Well, sort of. News of the shut-down leaked to the media, giving more than 160 workers less than a week’s heads-up that they would be out of a job.
“They were just there to make money off of us. We were the backbone. We made the ESPN how it was and how they got rid of us is real bad and I know they know that. Don’t try to sugarcoat it. We are human beings how are we going to live now?”, said Leonard Gray, a cook at the ESPN Zone of over 6 years. Workers have had their utilities cut off, have been forced to take their kids out of childcare and look for work with kids in hand, drop out of school, and move homes.
On Wednesday, low-wage workers at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor will be coming together not only to put the ESPN Zone on notice, but to expose the human cost of Poverty Zone development and the need for Inner Harbor developers to ensure basic human rights standards for all low-wage workers at the Inner Harbor. Shawn Greene, an ESPN worker of 9 years explained, “I know it wasn’t Cordish that personally treated ESPN workers they way they did, but they knew about it. Whoever they’ve got in their building, they should make sure they are going to treat their employees fairly. They’ve got to be held to that standard too.”
Join us in calling on the ESPN Zone to finally be on the side of justice and come to the table with workers to resolve these human rights abuses. Following the press conference, we will engage consumers at the Harbor highlighting the human rights violations at the ESPN Zone and throughout the Inner Harbor.
Mike Pesa, IWW member and United Workers ally, shot video of worker testimony in front of ESPN Zone.
What a week to kick-off the summer solidarity actions! Emanuel McCray, an ESPN Zone worker, spoke in front of the now closed ESPN Zone about the experience of learning through the news that he would be out of a job in less than a week as curious tourist and consumers walked passed. Allies came out to show their solidarity and reach out to consumers to educate them about the human rights abuses at the harbor and this most recent example of worker disregard. Many consumers were shocked to hear that Disney-owned ESPN Zone would treat their workers with such lack of respect. Connecting workers with consumers is critical to putting the pressure on Inner Harbor developers, GGP and Cordish, to ensure basic human rights standards for workers. This is just the beginning, so if you missed this action, be sure to sign-on to our e-alerts to learn about upcoming solidarity actions!
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Modern Slavery Museum made the trek all the way to D.C. in conjunction with a ceremony in which CIW’s own Laura Germino was recognized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her exemplary efforts in the fight against modern-day slavery in the United States. With the CIW in our neck of the woods, we took a day to visit our friends and congratulate them on their incredibly achievements in the ongoing struggle for human dignity.
We are launching “End Poverty Radio” with an exciting interview with three ESPN workers: Leonard Gray, Shawn Greene, and Emanuel McCray. Workers found out through a media leak that their restaurant would be closing in less than a week, leaving them out of a job during the peak summer season. Despite ESPN threatening workers not to publicly speak about the closing, Leonard, Shawn and Emanuel decided that their story needed to be told. Check out these two radio pieces as workers reveal the human cost of poverty zone development.
ESPN workers talk about the shock of learning of the closing through the media and their feelings of disrespect and betrayal.
Discussion on why Inner Harbor developers responsible for ensuring basic human rights standards for all low-wage workers at the harbor.
Join us this Saturday, June 19th for the first of many solidarity actions that will be taking place during the peak season at the harbor. We’ll be leafleting consumers to let them know about the human rights abuses that take place behind the scenes. Your participation is critical to building the consumer connection needed to secure justice for workers.
FIRST Summer Solidarity Action!
When: Saturday, June 19th at noon
Where: 901 Hollins St. (gathering at our office)
Workers at ESPN Zone were shocked to find out through the local news last Tuesday that within a week they would be out of a job. One loyal bartender of five-years found out through Facebook. Three undercover Baltimore City Policemen have been monitoring ESPN Zone’s Inner Harbor Location since the news leak. “They think we are going to steal their TVs,” said one worker. Employees learned they would be advised of possible severance packages Wednesday, a day after closure. After informing employees in Chicago and Washington that those locations would be closing the night of closure, the news leak gave Baltimore employees a week’s heads up. The silence was a slap in the face to employees, some of whom had worked for the company since it opened at the Inner Harbor in 1998.
The June closure is also a financial blow for Baltimore workers, who depend on summer tourist business to offset the slower seasons and compete for jobs at the Inner Harbor in the spring.
According to CNN Money, Disney, the entertainment empire that owns ESPN Zone, came in 57th on the Fortune 500 list and in 2009 made $3 billion in profits, gave no explanation for shutting down their restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Washington, Chicago and Baltimore. One cook said upon leaving work Saturday night, “Business has been better than ever. They could have at least waited until September when the tourist season is over.” She asked that her name not be used because ESPN Zone has issued a gag order, warning employees that if they speak to the media, they will lose their severance pay. ESPN Zone management has scheduled a meeting with workers for Wednesday, June 16th, to discuss a possible severance package, but some recent hires fear they may not qualify for those benefits and that finding a comparable job will be difficult now that tourist season is already in full swing.
Closing without advanced notice is yet another example of the poverty zone development that Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has come to exemplify, where developers Cordish and GGP who control the Inner Harbor continue to allow rampant human rights violations to take place at their properties. National chains and Corporate executives in Los Angeles are allowed to make life-altering decisions for employees making little over minimum wage who are left to figure out how they are going to pay next month’s rent in these hard economic times. One busser stated “We are used to getting paid daily [through tips]. I have a car-payment due tomorrow. If I can’t cash a severance check on Wednesday, I’m not going to be able to eat this month.”
Abuses such as these clearly indicate the need for GGP and Cordish to enter into a legally binding agreement to ensure basic human rights standards at the harbor, as a first step towards Fair Development. Zed Smith, Vice President of the Cordish Company told the Baltimore Sun June 9th that Cordish was confident it could quickly “replace the ESPN Zone with an equally spectacular venue.” But without any developer mandated human rights standards, what is to stop the next vendor from being “equally” abusive.
Fair Development respects human rights, maximizes public benefits, and is sustainable. As the heart of Baltimore, the Inner Harbor should reflect Fair Development standards and benefit the community as a whole, not merely the developers, who value private gain over public benefits.