Most of us spent the day yesterday enjoying the game with friends and family. What many of us don’t know is that one of the Super Bowl’s major sponsors, Bridgestone Firestone, is involved in incredible abuses in Liberia, where it runs the world’s largest rubber operation. Writing for Alternet, Emira Woods, co-director for Foreign Policy In Focus, brought the story to the fore yesterday.
Herself a Liberian, Woods visited the plantation in 2005, shortly after Firestone signed an agreement with the interim government that extended its lease until 2042. It was on this trip that she met Abu, an 11-year-old working in the Firestone plantation alongside his father.
From 4:30 AM, Abu spent his time cleaning storage cups, applying chemicals and pesticides to trees, collecting the rubber sap streaming down each tree and transporting buckets of sap weighing up to 75 pounds a mile up the road to storage tanks.
Woods was touched when Abu shared his dream of one day being a doctor, knowing how small his chances are. He and his family, she writes, are shackled by a quota system that withholds pay unless a set number of trees are tapped daily. Firestone marks this number at 650 trees, but rubber tappers have estimated the number at about 1,100 trees that must be tapped three times each day.
According to a CNN report, even 650 trees take about 21 hours tap. It is this quota system that forces workers to bring their children to work so they do not lose their daily meager wage of $3.19.
Read Modern-Day Slavery and the Big Game by Emira Woods at AlterNet.