Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sweatshop workers strike in Bangladesh

Now this story will have you fist-pumping at the same time as your blood is boiling. Since the Rana Plaza sweatshop factory collapse in April (death toll, 1,129; injury toll, including amputations, 2,500; missing bodies toll, 261) survivors & their families have repeatedly protested for back wages owed & compensation; the protests have mostly appeared quite small. In fact, garment workers & their political supporters have held sizable protests against the government & the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) which the media doesn’t bother to report. In June, police actually opened fire on striking garment workers when they should have been rounding up sweatshop owners & closing down the offices of US retailers. Bangladeshis whose fortunes are larded by sweatshop exploitation are not going to bite the hand that feeds them.

In response to protests, factory owners offered a 20% pay increase. On their current monthly wage of 3,000 takas ($38 USD) that would amount to less than $8.00 which garment workers rejected, calling it “inhuman & humiliating.” They are demanding an increase to 8,114 takas ($103 USD). The official poverty line established by the World Bank is about $38.00 a month but that’s likely based on the world economy somewhere around 9000 BCE when they were still trading grain for livestock. Keep in mind that the garment industry in Bangladesh which employs about 4 million workers brings in about $20 billion a year in export earnings. If they aren’t paying the workers, who the hell is getting rich!?

There’ve been a series of massive protests by garment workers like the one pictured here on September 4th. But this past Saturday 200,000 garment workers went out on strike--& they remained out as of yesterday. Between 100 & 150 factories shut down & protestors rallied at plants that remained open in defiance of the labor strike. Strikers are blocking traffic on key highways, throwing rocks at riot cops using rubber bullets & tear gas against them, & even confiscated & destroyed rifles used by the riot cops. Good for them! BGMEA officials are whimpering to the foreign media that the strike is costing them profits. They even accused strikers of torching two garment factories. It’s likely a false accusation but if they did torch them, good for them!

The massive labor uprising has garnered hardly any media attention so as not to draw attention to the fact that despite the many sweatshop factory fires & the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, US & European retailers like Walmart, Gap, Sears, Disney, & Benetton have not done one damn thing to redress the loss of lives & livelihood caused by their greed & predations. Can you imagine that back wages from April remain unpaid & that these retailers refuse to negotiate, let alone contribute to a compensation fund for those who lost family members & those who lost limbs!

We could not be prouder of our Bangladeshi brothers & sisters for leading the fight against sweatshop capitalism. Our fullest solidarity with your struggle! An injury to one is an injury to all! Your are showing working people everywhere what it takes to end exploitation.

(Photo from firstpost.com taken of Dhaka garment workers strike on September 4th 2013)

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