As the Pirates raced off to a 1-6 start, it's hard to say how many local players will get to suit up when the All-Star Game comes to PNC Park July 11.
But one hometown team is already making plans for the festivities ... the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA).
"We plan on using the All-Star game to get our message out," says PASCA founding member Kenneth Miller, whose group's goal is to create living-wage jobs in sweatshop factories around the world. "We want the Pirates to properly represent the citizens of this city, and be vocal with Major League Baseball about the importance of protecting workers' rights around the world."
The group has held demonstrations outside PNC Park for years, part of an effort to convince the league ... and city and county governments ... not to purchase materials made in sweatshops. PASCA has had some success, with a city ordinance on the books prohibiting such purchases. But earlier this year, the group asked for a public hearing to urge council to better enforce the law. Nothing has come from the hearing, Miller says.
The Pirates could not be reached for comment.
"Major League Baseball is in the process of reviewing all of the information that's been provided to us, and we don't have any additional comment at this time," says MLB spokesperson Susan Goodenow. The league, she adds, "routinely requires all of our business partners to comply with all applicable laws including those on wages and working conditions."
PASCA will urge Major League Baseball to require manufacturers of licensed merchandise to create improved conditions, while still guaranteeing employment, at the factories the league currently uses. Simply pulling orders and forcing factories to close, Miller says, is not the result the group is seeking. He points out that a Honduran factory, for instance, has little room to negotiate the price for its merchandise if it knows distributors can simply move the work to another country.
Sweatshop jobs, Miller contends, "were created with the promise that [they] would be used to build infrastructure to bring better jobs and future industrialization. But those jobs haven't come," and workers fear that "if they stand up for themselves, they're going to lose the shitty job they have to China."
Previous PASCA demonstrations have drawn modest numbers, but Miller expects a demonstration on a national stage to draw large crowds. His call for demonstrators has gone out to workers, union and otherwise, from all industries. He expects a contingent of Camden Yard's stadium clean-up workers, who have been denied unionization, to bus here from Baltimore in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, which feature everything from fan fests to a home-run derby and an old-timers' game.
Miller has already sent a letter to Police Chief Dom Costa about the demonstration, asking for police assistance and tolerance for the legally permitted protest.
Citing reports of surveillance of protest groups, and media reporting on the possibility of terrorism at sports facilities, the letter asserts "[W]e have every reason to be concerned that there will be attempts to block our access to people attending the All-Star Game. For these reasons we are requesting the assistance of the ACLU during the period leading up to the All-Star Game and the Citizen Police Review Board's presence on game day. We have already publicly stated that civil disobedience is a possibility."
"No one markets their logos or is better at making money off of them than Major League Baseball," Miller says. "If we can get Major League Baseball to stand up and take responsibility for these workers, there is little doubt that the other major leagues will quickly follow the example."