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Multi-Fiber Education on Roberto Clemente Bridge

Protesters Want Jobs in Tsunami Ravaged Lands

By Christian Morrow - New Pittsburgh Courier, January 2005

On New Years Eve, a small group of worker advocates tried to extend a hand to some of those devastated by the tsunami that has killed an estimated 140,000 people across the Indian Ocean rim.

Members of No Sweatshops Bucco! and the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance protested the expiration of the international Multi Fiber Arrangement Dec. 31 and called on the Pittsburgh Pirates to help save the jobs of textile workers in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia who make the baseball franchise's merchandise.

Though Pittsburgh Pirate replica uniforms and other merchandising rights are actually owned by Major League Baseball Properties, Miller said the jobs could be kept where they were with the same wages and benefits and become part of the of the economic recovery effort, if the Pirates and other teams speak up, said No Sweatshops Bucco! founder Kenneth Miller.

With the MFA's expiration, surviving workers in these countries that suffered massive loss of life and property now face the prospect of also losing their livelihood.

"You're telling people who just lost their homes and families that lost their jobs," said Miller. "Everything made there should be maintained. It's the most significant contribution we could make. It's saving the work been doing for 30 years."

"When we exposed sweatshops in Honduras, baseball dumped the contractor," he said. "They could freeze those jobs. Otherwise the factory owners won't rebuild. They.ll take the work to China where workers have no protections and make 8 cents an hour."

The Pittsburgh Pirates did not return calls to comment on this issue.

Major League Baseball spokesman Carmine Tiso said he would have to do some research on the issue, but added companies they contract with also manufacture merchandise for a number of other organizations and aren't exclusively answerable to Major League Baseball.

Clemente Son's Trip to Fulfill Dad's Relief Effort Hits Snags

By Jeremy Boren - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Thursday, December 30, 2004.

A lifetime of adoration for Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente has fueled a New York nonprofit's efforts to honor The Great One with a mercy mission to South Asia to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

The original plans called for a commemoration of Clemente's 1972 New Year's Eve aid mission to Nicaragua with Roberto Clemente Jr. in the passenger seat.

But catastrophe half a world away and a scheduling conflict over an Army transport plane altered the trip being planned by Clemente Jr. and Eliezer Rodriguez, a lawyer-turned-philanthropist from Bronx, N.Y.

"The demand for help in Asia is too compelling," Rodriguez said Wednesday night on his cell phone in Puerto Rico. "We made the decision, and our efforts have changed."

They had wanted to mark the 32nd anniversary of the elder Clemente's ill-fated flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Managua, Nicaragua. That mission has been pushed back to Dec. 31, 2005.

The mission will now continue to collect more food, money and supplies for the victims. A departure date has not yet been set and Rodriguez did not know if Clemente Jr. would accompany the supplies.

The elder Clemente was dissatisfied with the slow international response to an earthquake that ravaged that nation. Despite protests from his family, he boarded a plane filled with supplies on Dec. 31, 1972. The overburdened DC-7 crashed shortly after takeoff from San Juan, killing Clemente and four crew members.

With the death toll continuing to rise from the Indian Ocean tsunami, Rodriguez, Clemente Jr. and Project Club Clemente redirected the relief effort to countries in Asia and Africa.

The disaster rekindled the famous words Clemente spoke as he prepared to deliver aid to Nicaragua:

"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth."

The 1972 earthquake that hit Managua killed between 5,000 and 7,000. The casualty estimate in South Asia has exceeded 77,000.

Since early this year, Rodriguez has worked to collect about $15,000 to buy the food and medical supplies needed to fulfill Clemente's promise. Rodriguez put his career on hold to organize the trip through Project Club Clemente, the nonprofit he founded in 2000.

Originally, the goods were to be loaded onto a 6:30 p.m. New Year's Eve flight from San Juan to Managua. The time, date and amount of cargo would mirror Clemente's mission of 32 years ago.

After Clemente Jr. agreed to make the trip with Rodriguez, much of the planning went smoothly until this week, when Rodriguez said Army officials reneged on their offer to provide a transport plane for the mission. Rodriguez was told the plane is needed for another purpose that "superseded" the goodwill trip.

"We've been promoting this project for a year," Rodriguez said. "The whole time we've been talking about teaching our youth the importance of making and keeping commitments, even if it takes 32 years."

In a letter posted by Clemente Jr. on the nonprofit's Web site, he said the flight would ease his mind of the guilt he's felt since he was 6 for failing to persuade his father not to get on the plane.

Attempts to reach him in Puerto Rico were unsuccessful yesterday, as were calls to the Army National Guard in San Juan.

"I guess this will be a new beginning for me," Clemente Jr. told The New York Times in an article published Tuesday. "I guess I will be a different person, not having that guilt inside of me. It will set me free."

Clemente Foundation President Chuck Berry, of Pine, said he spoke with Clemente Jr. last week about the flight.

"I think he felt this was a way to bring some closure to the whole episode of his dad's death," Berry said. "I know he felt good about seeing this through."