Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No criminal impunity for sweatshop retailers!

Officials have ended rescue work at the Rana Plaza in Savar Bangladesh. The death toll is now 380 people with over 900 still entombed in the rubble. If their own relatives were buried there, officials might not be so quick to call it off. Hundreds of workers have died in fires & accidents in the past several years since Bangladesh became sweatshop nation for retailers in the US, Europe, Japan, & South Korea.

Tens of thousands of garment workers poured out of factories in response to the building collapse & were met with tear gas, truncheons & police violence. Labor militancy against super-exploitation is not new to Bangladesh but is met by extreme repression by the state. The struggle of these workers, including thousands of children garment workers, is a beacon to sweatshop workers around the world--which is why they encounter such violent opposition.

The retailers will scurry for cover, offer some mea culpas & ‘we didn’t knows’ & all the criminals involved will blame it solely on the builder who was arrested heading for the hills. He should surely be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for criminal neglect leading to the deaths of 1,280 people & the injuries of hundreds of others. But if that is the sole indictment, justice will be scorned.

The retailers implicated in this monstrous crime are now spending millions on Mother’s Day advertising; after the Tazreen garment factory fire last November, they spent millions on schmaltzy Christmas advertising. Those who care about human rights cannot allow them to walk away from these crimes with impunity. It is long since overdue to start teach-ins, speak-outs, forums, pickets, rallies in support of the garment workers facing tear gas & truncheons in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, & elsewhere.

These portraits of the missing garment workers of Savar are posted in the school turned into a makeshift morgue. The oligarchs of Bangladesh should be forewarned: the photo montages of victims don’t go away. They remain as a call to action until justice is served--even if that be decades.

Our fullest solidarity with the garment workers of Bangladesh! No to sweatshops! No to criminal impunity for sweatshop retailers! An injury to one is an injury to all!

(Photo by Wong Maye-E/AP)

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