Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Made in Bangladesh" the label for super-exploitation

“Made in Bangladesh” is now a label signifying child labor, denial of labor rights & abuse of workers, complete disregard of safety, fatal accidents like fires & building collapses. The collapse (on Weds.) of Rana Plaza in Savar, an industrial district of Dhaka, is only the latest incident. The death toll is now nearly 250 people & still rising.

Despite authorities previously declaring the building dangerous & unfit for habitation, the garment manufacturers housed in the building ordered employees to go to work or be fired. The government authorities who didn’t stick around long enough to enforce their judgement are now flying flags at half-mast & holding a national day of mourning. The factory owners have high-tailed it into hiding. The US & European retailers who dictate such barbaric conditions of labor are issuing their usual “we knew nothing about these conditions” statements & pledging new controls. There are so many criminal indictments here it’s difficult to list them all.

Companies in Rana Plaza are part of the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) which outlawed unions altogether for many years & now just severely represses them & murders union organizers. Workers have no rights--though that has not stopped them from frequent rebellions against atrocious conditions. The suppression of unions was necessary to attract foreign investors & the Bangladeshi government complied with the most violent enforcement.

Despite their sniveling protestations, retailers outsource to Bangladesh precisely because labor rights are zilch & labor costs the lowest in the world. The average garment worker makes US 20-cents an hour. One lousy shirt at Walmart pays the monthly wage of one worker; one lousy Hilfiger shirt pays the monthly wage of 3 or 4 workers.

Here’s a partial list of some of the retailers whose clothing were made in Rana Plaza: Gap, Walmart, New Wave Style, Ether Tex, Canton Tech Apparel, New Wave Bottoms, Spanish retailer Mango, English retailer Primark, PVH Corp (owner of Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger brands), German retailer Tchibo, JC Penney, Target, Phillips-Van Heusen, Kohl’s, Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Altogether, The Children's Place, Dress Barn, Italian retailer Benetton.

These export zones of super-exploitation are multiplying like cockroaches all over this planet & they are always accompanied by repression of labor rights, flagrant dangers for workers, & the murder of labor organizers. It’s time for consumers to take a stand which means not just boycotts but protests & pickets & mobilized outrage. An injury to one is an injury to all!

This woman in Savar is one of many holding up photos of loved ones still buried in the rubble. The young man in the photo is her young brother. Media reports soldiers, paramilitary cops, firefighters & citizens are all clawing through the wreckage for survivors & bodies but photojournalism has only shown desperate citizens--especially since it took so long for firefighters to show up.

(Photo by AFP)

1 comment:

  1. A correction: I have been informed by a reliable labor source that Rana Plaza was not part of the Dhaka Export Processing Zone although the DEPZ is in Savar. My information was apparently erroneous.