Thursday, April 25, 2013

RIP brother Aminul Islam

Aminul Islam was a 40-year-old labor organizer in the garment industry of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the second-largest apparel exporting nation (after China) with about $18 billion worth of clothes exported annually & the lowest wages in the world at US 20-cents an hour or $37 a month. By all accounts from co-workers & colleagues, Aminul was an extremely committed activist, fearless in pursuing workers rights.

He started as a garment factory worker & in 2005 was elected by co-workers to negotiate grievances with management. Within a year, the company fired him & though he took his case to court & won, the factory owner refused to reinstate him. He began to study labor rights at Solidarity Center in Dhaka, one of several such centers around the world affiliated with the US AFL-CIO & bankrolled by & associated with nefarious political agencies like the CIA. The purpose of these centers is to counter the influence of socialists & communists in national labor federations. There is no suggestion from anyone that Aminul was compromised by this association but only that he used their educational resources. Labor organizations in Bangladesh are under siege by the government & may not have had training for activists like Aminul.

Aminul worked as an organizer for the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) & was considered outspoken & fearless as an organizer. He had most recently been attempting to organize workers at factories owned by the Shanta Group which makes clothing for several US companies, including Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, & Ralph Lauren.

As a result of his activities, Bangladeshi security forces threatened him, followed him, tapped his phone, regularly harassed him, once abducted & beat him. On April 4, 2012, he was disappeared. His family recognized him in a newspaper photo of an unidentified man found beaten & tortured on the side of the road. The police--who denied any culpability--had burned & dumped his body in a pauper’s grave without ceremony. His family exhumed the body for proper burial. Authorities have not yet made any arrests in his murder. He left a wife & three small children.

We should honor our brother Aminul & those many union organizers around the world who have paid for their commitment to worker’s rights with their own lives. May they RIP. May their sacrifice not be used to intimidate us but to embolden us in defense of working people.

(Photo of Aminul Islam is from the NY Times)

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