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Firestone lawsuit (re Liberia)

Rubber treeIn November 2005 a group of adults and children who live and work on the Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia filed a class action lawsuit in US federal court in California.  The plaintiffs made claims against Firestone (owned by Bridgestone Corporation) under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) alleging that the working conditions at the rubber plantation amount to forced labour.  The complaint further claims under ATCA that the company has profited from the use of illegal child labour.  The plaintiffs allege that the supervisors at the Firestone plantation encouraged and even required the adult workers to put their children (some as young as six years old) to work to meet the company’s high production quotas.  According to the plaintiffs, the daily wage of a Firestone plantation worker is $3.19 if the worker can tap 1125 trees in a day.  If the worker only taps 750 trees in a day, he will lose half of his daily wage.  In addition, the plaintiffs made claims under the US Constitution and under California state law.  The defendants moved to dismiss the case arguing that the workers had not pleaded sufficient facts to support their claims of forced labour. 

In April 2006, the case was transferred to federal court in Indiana.  In June 2006, the court ruled on the defendants’ motion to dismiss.  The judge denied the motion to dismiss with regard to the plaintiffs’ child forced labour claims under ATCA, but he granted the motion to dismiss with regard to the balance of the claims.  The judge granted the motion to dismiss the claims of adult forced labour finding that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead violations of specific, universal and obligatory norms of international law necessary for a claim under ATCA.  However, the judge did find that the forced child labour allegations were sufficiently pleaded to permit the claims to be brought under ATCA.  On 5 October 2010, the district court in Indiana dismissed the case.  The court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis that, according to the decision in Kiobel v. Shell, no "corporate liability exists under" ATCA.  The plaintiffs appealed this dismissal, and on 11 July 2011 the court of appeals issued a decision in which it affirmed the dismissal, but the appeals court specifically rejected the Kiobel argument that no corporate liability exists under ATCA.

 

- "Firestone wins Liberian child labor case in US", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 13 Jul 2011
- "Worldview: Firestone's Rubber Plantation in Liberia", Chicago Public Radio, 15 Feb 2008

- "Exploitation In Liberia", Analyst [Liberia], 21 Apr 2006

- "Modern-day slavery in Liberia", Robtel Pailey, Pambazuka News [So. Africa], 2 Feb 2006

- "Alien Tort Claims Act Lawsuit Alleges Slavery and Child Labor on Liberian Firestone Plantation", William Baue, SocialFunds.com, 30 Dec 2005

 

- Firestone Natural Rubber Company: Blog - Child Labor Myths, posted by Charles Stuart, Managing Director, Firestone Liberia, 8 Apr 2008

- International Rights Advocates [counsel for plaintiffs]: Bridgestone-Firestone Case Summary

- Stop Firestone: About the lawsuit [campaign regarding child labour and environmental issues]

- Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Company, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 11 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Company - Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, 5 Oct 2010
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion For a Protective Order to Require Defendants to Conduct the Depositions of Plaintiffs and their Third-Party Liberian Witnesses with Interpreters, 23 Apr 2008

- US District court for the Southern District of Indiana: [PDF] John Roe I, et al. v. Bridgestone Corporation, et al. - Entry on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, 26 Jun 2007

- [PDF] Plaintiffs' supplemental brief in reply to Defendants' supplemental brief, 7 Aug 2006

- [PDF] Defendants' motion for leave to file a supplemental brief in response to declaration of Terry Collingsworth and supplemental brief in response to Terry Collingsworth, 26 Jul 2006

- [PDF] Defendants' reply memorandum in support of motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, 27 Mar 2006

- [PDF] Plaintiffs' memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss, 20 Mar 2006

- [PDF] Class action complaint for injunctive relief and damages, 17 Nov 2005

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All components of this story

Article
30 April 2007

Mittal Steel did the right thing – will Firestone? [Liberia]

Author: Global Witness

Mittal Steel [part of Arcelor Mittal] has moved one step closer to living up to its corporate social responsibility pledges by renegotiating its deeply unfair $900 million iron ore concession agreement with war-ravaged Liberia. However, Liberia's other major multinational investor, rubber giant Firestone [Bridgestone-Firestone, part of Bridgestone], must follow suit as it renegotiates its 2005 rubber agreement with the Government of Liberia... "Predatory and unfair investments in natural resources in developing countries, especially post-conflict countries, set back development. In countries coming out of wars that were fuelled by natural resources, deals like this are playing with fire..." said Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness.

Read the full post here

Article
14 March 2007

[video] Firestone Liberia - Al Jazeera (Part 1 & Part 2) [scroll down]

Author: People and Power, Al Jazeera

...In today’s programme…we look at trouble for Firestone [part of Bridgestone] on Liberia’s rubber plantations…The company is accused of low wages and poor working conditions, charges to which Firestone contests…Firestone has become extremely sensitive to the issue of child labour, since a lawsuit was filed against it in 2005, which accuses it of slave-like conditions on the plantations…One of the things in the court case is that if a worker does not fulfill his quota, his…daily wage is halved. [Rufus Carmel of Firestone’s public affairs said]“…It’s a daily quota...within the collective bargaining agreement…that you must finish your task…”

Read the full post here

Article
31 December 2006

Firestone's Liberian base called a 'gulag'

Author: Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers

The International Labor Rights Fund in Washington has filed a federal suit against Firestone for what it calls "a gulag of misery" on the 200-square-mile estate, believed to be the largest rubber plantation in the world. The suit alleges that Firestone's Liberian employees are overworked, underpaid, and exposed to pesticides and other hazardous chemicals, and that they risk injury because of inadequate safety measures...The suit...names Nashville-based Firestone and its Japanese parent, Bridgestone Firestone...The company denies the allegations and has asked the judge to dismiss the case; a ruling is expected in early 2007.

Read the full post here

Article
10 February 2006

Rubber plantation workers strike over conditions, pay, child labour [Liberia]

Author: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Angry workers have downed tools at Liberia's largest rubber plantation, owned by Bridgestone/Firestone [part of Bridgestone], saying that wages are so low that children as young as seven years old are being forced to help their parents meet production quotas. [According to] International Labour Rights Fund (ILRF) [which has] filed a lawsuit in the United States against Bridgestone/Firestone...Bridgestone/Firestone has issued a directive that child labour would no longer be permitted on the plantation.

Read the full post here

Article
30 December 2005

Alien Tort Claims Act Lawsuit Alleges Slavery and Child Labor on Liberian Firestone Plantation

Author: William Baue, SocialFunds.com

Last month, the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) filed an Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) case in US District Court in California against Bridgestone alleging "forced labor, the modern equivalent of slavery" on the Firestone Plantation in Harbel, Liberia... "We've had a policy in place for many years against child labor--there are strict guidelines forbidding the use of children as laborers," [Dan MacDonald, director of media relations for Bridgestone-Firestone] said. [also refers to Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart]

Read the full post here

Article
8 December 2005

Workers talk of hardship at Liberia's Firestone

Author: Katharine Houreld, Reuters

The International Labor Rights Fund, a non-profit group promoting fair working practices, filed a lawsuit against Firestone [Bridgestone-Firestone (part of Firestone)] in California this month alleging that poor conditions and pay on the plantation amounted to virtual slavery -- allegations the company denies.

Read the full post here

Article
18 November 2005

Labour group sues Bridgestone on Liberia rubber plantation

Author: Reuters South Africa

The International Labor Rights Fund [ILRF] on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit in the United States alleging workers at Bridgestone Corp.'s Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia toil in virtual slavery. Firestone...relies on a poverty stricken and often illiterate work force to tap tons of raw latex...using...methods that expose them to dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, the group said. Dan Adomitis, the head of Firestone Natural Rubber Co., the unit that operates the Liberian operation, said..."This group [ILRF] has a long track record of filing and losing similar lawsuits against corporations... The allegations by this group are outrageous and are simply not supported by the facts... Firestone is doing more than any other private entity to invest in the rebuilding of Liberia... We provide our (employees) in Liberia with stable jobs, housing, health care and free education"... [also refers to Wal-Mart]

Read the full post here

Lawsuit
18 November 2002

Firestone lawsuit (re Liberia)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In November 2005 a group of adults and children who live and work on the Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia filed a class action lawsuit in US federal court in California.  The plaintiffs made claims against Firestone (owned by Bridgestone Corporation) under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) alleging that the working conditions at the rubber plantation amount to forced labour.  The complaint further claims under ATCA that the company has profited from the use of illegal child labour.  The plaintiffs allege that the supervisors at the Firestone plantation encouraged and even required the adult workers to put their children (some as young as six years old) to work to meet the company’s high production quotas.  According to the plaintiffs, the daily wage of a Firestone plantation worker is $3.19 if the worker can tap 1125 trees in a day.  If the worker only taps 750 trees in a day, he will lose half of his daily wage.  In addition, the plaintiffs made claims under the US Constitution and under California state law.  The defendants moved to dismiss the case arguing that the workers had not pleaded sufficient facts to support their claims of forced labour. 

In April 2006, the case was transferred to federal court in Indiana.  In June 2006, the court ruled on the defendants’ motion to dismiss.  The judge denied the motion to dismiss with regard to the plaintiffs’ child forced labour claims under ATCA, but he granted the motion to dismiss with regard to the balance of the claims.  The judge granted the motion to dismiss the claims of adult forced labour finding that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead violations of specific, universal and obligatory norms of international law necessary for a claim under ATCA.  However, the judge did find that the forced child labour allegations were sufficiently pleaded to permit the claims to be brought under ATCA.  On 5 October 2010, the district court in Indiana dismissed the case.  The court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis that, according to the decision in Kiobel v. Shell, no "corporate liability exists under" ATCA.  The plaintiffs appealed this dismissal, and on 11 July 2011 the court of appeals issued a decision in which it affirmed the dismissal, but the appeals court specifically rejected the Kiobel argument that no corporate liability exists under ATCA.

 

- "Firestone wins Liberian child labor case in US", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 13 Jul 2011
- "Worldview: Firestone's Rubber Plantation in Liberia", Chicago Public Radio, 15 Feb 2008

- "Exploitation In Liberia", Analyst [Liberia], 21 Apr 2006

- "Modern-day slavery in Liberia", Robtel Pailey, Pambazuka News [So. Africa], 2 Feb 2006

- "Alien Tort Claims Act Lawsuit Alleges Slavery and Child Labor on Liberian Firestone Plantation", William Baue, SocialFunds.com, 30 Dec 2005

 

- Firestone Natural Rubber Company: Blog - Child Labor Myths, posted by Charles Stuart, Managing Director, Firestone Liberia, 8 Apr 2008

- International Rights Advocates [counsel for plaintiffs]: Bridgestone-Firestone Case Summary

- Stop Firestone: About the lawsuit [campaign regarding child labour and environmental issues]

- Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Company, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 11 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Company - Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, 5 Oct 2010
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion For a Protective Order to Require Defendants to Conduct the Depositions of Plaintiffs and their Third-Party Liberian Witnesses with Interpreters, 23 Apr 2008

- US District court for the Southern District of Indiana: [PDF] John Roe I, et al. v. Bridgestone Corporation, et al. - Entry on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, 26 Jun 2007

- [PDF] Plaintiffs' supplemental brief in reply to Defendants' supplemental brief, 7 Aug 2006

- [PDF] Defendants' motion for leave to file a supplemental brief in response to declaration of Terry Collingsworth and supplemental brief in response to Terry Collingsworth, 26 Jul 2006

- [PDF] Defendants' reply memorandum in support of motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, 27 Mar 2006

- [PDF] Plaintiffs' memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss, 20 Mar 2006

- [PDF] Class action complaint for injunctive relief and damages, 17 Nov 2005