Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sports and Exhibition Authority Reviews Recent Case of a Pirate's Sweatshop Monitor Detained in Bangladesh and Race Discrimination at New Era Cap

Original Posting from Feb 1 at 3 pm. Updated below:

Different worlds merge on Monday, from baseball to The Hill to Bangladesh and snuffing out a whistleblower. We are all connected in our big blue planet.
February 1, 2008

Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance, Contact Kenneth Miller


The Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) investigator in Bangladesh has been illegally detained, effectively disappeared. A description of events, confirmed by the US Embassy in Bangladesh:

Mehedi Hasan, a Bangladeshi national and a labor rights investigator for the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), was detained on January 24, in Dhaka, by the Bangladesh intelligence service and is being held for interrogation. The WRC, based in Washington, D.C., monitors labor practices at apparel factories on behalf of universities and government entities in the United States; it is clear that Mr. Hasan's arrest is related to the labor rights monitoring work he has performed on the WRC's behalf. It appears that the government plans to bring a number of bogus criminal charges against Mr. Hasan. Labor rights advocates in Bangladesh are very concerned that he will be physically mistreated while in custody.

In a letter of July 6, 2006 Ethan G Orlinsky of Major League Baseball wrote,

It appears that virtually all of MLBP headwear and apparel licensees authorized to distribute apparel in the United States are members of groups such as the Workers Rights Consortium…

Major League Baseball is NOT cooperating with the WRC. If they were, they would be requiring licensees to report the location of all factories and be actively supporting monitors like Mr. Hasan.

Companies like New Era, American Needle and Nike produce Pirates apparel in Bangladesh in the area where Mr. Hason is working. In some cases, Pirates apparel and university apparel is manufactured in the same factories.

In an earlier letter to the Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA) on April 2, 2006 Mr. Orlinsky brags about New Era baseball caps and Majestic baseball jerseys being manufactured in the United States. Unfortunately, many of the US factories are sweatshops as well. On Martin Luther King Day of this year, New Era workers at the plant in Mobile, Alabama protested a pattern and practice of race discrimination and a wave of illegal firings. Alongside them marched the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and United Students Against Sweatshops. New Era Cap has rejected the investigative efforts of the WRC.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, whose logo and apparel represent the City of Pittsburgh and who participate in Major League Baseball Properties Revenue Sharing Agreement, can have an appropriate impact by speaking out at this time. PASCA urges Frank Coonelly to represent Pittsburgh effectively:

Issue a statement expressing concern for Mehedi Hasan and demanding his immediate release. Assure WRC monitors access to factories sewing Pirates apparel.

Frank Coonelly should go to Mobile, Alabama himself and meet with the New Era workers. Deliver solidarity, as Roberto Clemente would do. Talk to the workers and demand that New Era's disclose the names and locations of ALL it's factories, and those of its subcontractors, sewing Pirates apparel.

Members of PASCA are hopeful that Frank Coonelly's tenure with the Pirates will be more productive for workers sewing Pirates apparel than was Kevin McClatchy's. PASCA is not asking him to collaborate with an already negligent Commissioners Office, but to take a stand for workers rights that will make Pittsburgh proud.

In a letter to participants at the 10th Annual Summit Against Racism, Dennis Brutus said, "The Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance is asking for a Civil Rights Bridge…the Pirates use Pittsburgh as a platform to represent themselves. That representation is not sincere without accepting a responsibility, an obligation, to reflect our values."

Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) should use the anti sweatshop standards encoded in the City and County anti sweatshop ordinances. It should rely on the All-Star 2006 Anti Sweatshop Proclamation signed by then City Council President Luke Ravenstahl. The Sports and Exhibition Authority has a mandate, and precedence, to address these worker rights violations at its meeting on Monday.

The SEA Board will meet Monday February 4 at 1:30 on the 3rd floor of the David L Lawrence Convention Center. Call the SEA on Monday morning to confirm that no changes to the schedule have been made. 412-393-0200

The Chair of the SEA (joint appointment) is John Chalovich. Luke Ravenstahl's appointees are Jeff Koch, Tony Ross and State Senator Wayne Fontana. Dan Onorato's appoints are Rev. William Curtis, Dr. Edie Shapira and State Senator Sean Logan.  

Members of the One Hill Coalition will be at the meeting to discuss the role they would like the Board to play in their negotiations with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Volunteers from the Black Political Empowerment Project's Racial Equity Monitoring Project will also attend. and

Update on Feb 3, 2008:
Dear Colleagues,

I am very happy to report that Mehedi Hasan was released on Sunday afternoon, Dhaka time. We have confirmed it directly with Mehedi himself. We also understand that the pending charges against him have been dropped; this is what the police have told Mehedi’s lawyer. Documents confirming this have not yet been received, however. We hope to know more soon about the government’s official position on the case and their intentions going forward. As you know, we have also been very concerned about how Mehedi was being treated in custody; we are awaiting information on this question.

We want to thank all of you for your efforts on this. Unquestionably, it was the pressure from foreign governments, buyers, and NGOS both in Bangladesh and around the world that secured Mehedi’s release. Your help is deeply appreciated.

As we know you are all aware, there are other labor rights advocates and worker leaders in Bangladesh who have been arrested and/or are facing unfair charges similar to those to which Mehedi was to be subjected. Police and judicial procedures under the state of emergency raise grave doubts about whether any of these cases will be adjudicated justly. There is also the ongoing problem of the government’s broader effort to repress labor rights advocacy and the exercise of associational rights by Bangadeshi workers. It is our hope that the energy mobilized on Mehedi’s behalf, which has been so effective in securing his release, can be maintained and directed toward the broader goal of protecting labor rights advocates and worker representatives throughout Bangladesh. We look forward to working with you toward that goal.

Please contact us if you have questions about this update. We will provide more information about the status of Mehedi’s case as we receive it.

Thank you again for your timely and effective action.


Scott Nova
Jeremy Blasi

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