“Colors of an Ousted Lebanon” takes place in the spectacular Al Hamra area of Beirut, a once thriving center of commercial and cultural life, now reduced to a shell of destroyed buildings. In this colorful depiction of pre-war Beirut, colorfully detailed street scenes replace the gray and faded bricks of the modern city streets. The vibrant images, vividly colored and vividly enlivened by lively local children playing around a fire, provide an enchanting glimpse into the vibrant culture and bustling life in an old part of town. Music, dance, flowers, jewelry and furniture all contribute to this colorful snapshot of pre-war Beirut.
“Colors of an Ousted Lebanon” traces its colorful heritage back to the famous “Green Deal” project spearheaded by the French petroleum giant Neograda, which brought thousands of displaced persons out of the mountains to the safety of the capital. As part of the deal, Neograda offered compensation to those who were displaced or left their mountain homes due to the bombardment of allied air raids on August 21, 1982. Oil companies were also not interested in investing in the mountains, so the people who lived there were forced out and left with nothing. “Colors of Ousted Lebanon” traces the path of this historic influx of displaced persons, highlighting the hardship they had to face while trying to find a safer home in the new city. Oil traders and contractors in the area became interested in purchasing the properties that were left after the evacuation and, through their generosity and good intentions, opened the door to a wealth of opportunity that has yet to fully materialize.
Through Lebanese intermediaries and a multi-million contract awarded to the United Arab Emirates (the UAE), a group of retirees bought a plot of land on Mount Lebanon. Filled with olive groves, fruit trees, and other lush areas, it provided them with a home, security, and a way to bring in income by renting out apartments to local residents. According to an article by Mark Houghton in the Los Angeles Times, the plot of land was purchased for a mere two years’ worth of salary when the contract was signed. This is shocking, considering the conditions that retirees faced while attempting to earn a living in Lebanon.
Another former employee of the American multinational corporation Neogrades-ientific told the Associated Press that the company’s vice president, Kevin Kiley, personally selected the location for the two-year-old factory expansion project. Kiley was well aware that the location was one of the safest in the region. When the factory job got underway, Neogrades-nantez decided to award the workers’ union a forty-two thousand dollar bonus, claiming that it was a result of the company’s efforts to provide a safe working environment. According to the AP, the workers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor and are pursuing a case against Neogrades-ientsion, Kevin Kiley, and Nissan Motors, which are the company that contracted with the United Auto Workers Union to build the factory.
A former director of the California State University at Northridge, John Hoover, said that the union that negotiated with Nissan was completely out of touch with reality. “Nissan turned out to be one of the most difficult institutions to bargain with in terms of wages and benefits,” Hoover said. “The reality is that the plant is efficient and the quality of the goods produced there is world-class.” However, Hoover added, “You cannot have a company that has such a deep and abiding faith that they can tolerate the existence of a unionized plant on their property.” The author of a book about the process of organizing the UFA said that, “The fact that UFA got involved in this episode reveals just how flimsy our workers’ protection mechanisms are.” The author said that, “If a company has signed a contract with the UFCW and they’re having trouble coming up with a living wage, they clearly don’t value their employees as much as they should.”
The company’s problems with the UFCW go deeper than its treatment of the union. According to a story in the San Francisco Business Journal, a representative for the UFCW met with the heads of both the UFCW and the UFA and offered to walk away if the latter didn’t sign one million contract. The UFA president tried to negotiate with this representative, but he was told by the UFCW representative that the company didn’t care about the one million contract. The company also told the UFCW representative that it was interested in putting their workers on a furlough basis, which is when they receive no wages for a specific period of time. “This is contrary to every contract the UFCW has ever signed,” said the author of that article.
It is clear from this example that the UFA doesn’t really value its employees as much as the owners believe they do. It was exactly the same case with Nissan Motors. When Nissan Motors offered a one-year and two-year labor agreement to its unionized employees, many of them walked. Nissan Motors even went so far as to offer an eight-year and a ten-year deal to its unionized workforce. The company later settled for a six-year and five-year labor deal.
Clearly, the UFCW and the UEA don’t see eye to eye when it comes to employee benefit matters. The UFCW represents automotive workers, while the UEA represents all hospitality workers. Clearly, an employer who is willing to offer a six or seven-year labor agreement to its employees can expect to see some resistance from the unions with a one-year or two-year contract commitment. If you work for a company that is on the verge of going out of business, it is probably best to just get an RFA, rather than a ufa.