MARCHERS RAIL AGAINST SWEATSHOPS, CHILD LABOR
Byline: Scott Malone
NEW YORK — As a follow-up to the violent demonstrations last week in Seattle, several hundred students, union members and city residents staged a peaceful demonstration here at the peak of rush hour Thursday to call for an end to child labor and sweatshop conditions.
Union leaders at the event said it was an effort to keep their momentum alive after last week’s much-publicized protests at the World Trade Organization summit. Speakers at the rally emphasized the continuing role of students in the movement to improve labor conditions around the world.
“In Seattle, it was the AFL-CIO who threw the party, but it was the students who were the party,” said John Sweeney, president of the country’s largest labor organization. “Our message is just don’t buy from sweatshops.”
Jay Mazur, president of UNITE, and Brian McLaughlin, head of the New York Labor Coalition, also addressed the crowd.
The demonstration began on 57th Street, outside of NikeTown, and marchers bearing signs with slogans including “Stop Sweatshops” and “You Are What You Wear” proceeded down Fifth Avenue, taking up a lane of traffic and drawing stares from crowds of holiday shoppers.
Placards called for a number of large companies, including Disney, Nike, Wal-Mart, Kmart and the Gap to evaluate their labor practices.
Demonstrators passed a number of those companies’ stores in the course of their eight-block march.
Present in the crowd were demonstrators dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Santa Claus, prisoners, a unicyclist and several drummers.
The demonstrators ranged widely in age, from senior citizens to a group of students aged eight to 10 from New York’s Public School 290. Other school groups included ones from Brooklyn Technical High School, the Immaculate Heart Academy and several campuses from the State University of New York.
At the podium on 49th Street, under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Mazur said, “Last week in Seattle, we sent a message to the WTO, the politicians and — I dare say — the world. No more sweatshops.”
He continued, “When we are saying that expanding trade is more important than expanding freedom and democracy, then something is very wrong.”
McLaughlin said the greatest accomplishment of the day had been uniting the “expanding coalition of students, trade unionists and compassionate New Yorkers.”
He continued, “We shouldn’t be in a race for the lowest standards” on labor and wages.