‘The Economy Runs on Our Toil’: Record Protests Sweep Bangladesh September 22, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Bangladesh, Human Rights, Labor.
Tags: bangladesh, benetton, child labor, disney, Gap, garment industry, garment workers, labor, labor unions, roger hollander, sarah lazare, Sears, third world, unions, walmart, worker protest
Roger’s note: the myth is that we are living in a post-industrial society (as if somehow the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the houses we live in, etc. somehow are magically made). In reality exploited industrial labor has been shifted for the U.S. and Europe to the third world, mostly Asia. Just about anything we buy, from running shoes, to screw drivers, to pillow cases, is manufactured by some exploited worker, quite possible a child working 12 hours a day for slave wages, in Bangladesh or the Philippines. It is an iron law of capitalist production to continually search out sources of cheap labor. Capital accumulation originated on the backs of indigenous miners in Peru and African slaves. Today, while it is mainly low paid services industry workers who are subjected to exploitation in the former industrial nations, the beat goes on for dark skinned factory workers in the third world.
Over 50,000 demand ‘dignity’ in garment industry where majority-female worke-force faces dangerous conditions and some of lowest wages in world
50,000 garment workers demanding higher pay flooded the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh Saturday, and 20,000 shut down dozens of factories by walking off the job, in the largest demonstrations to ever sweep the notoriously dangerous and low-wage Bangladesh garment industry.
The protests continued on Sunday, with workers and their supporters blocking traffic, marching along a key highway, and clashing with police who shot rubber bullets and tear gas at crowds of thousands, the AFP reports.
“Our backs are against the wall, so we don’t have any alternative unless we raise our voice strongly,” Nazma Akter, president of the United Garments Workers’ Federation, which groups 52 garment worker’s groups, told Saturday’s protest, Reuters reports. “We will not hesitate to do anything to realize our demand.”
Bangladesh’s garment industry is the second largest in the world, accounting for 80 percent of the country’s annual exports. Its estimated 4 million workers, 80 percent of whom are women from rural areas, earn a paltry $38 U.S. dollars a month, making them some of the lowest-paid garment workers in the world.
Unions have demanded a wage increase that would bring them to a monthly wage of $100 dollars to lift workers out of deep poverty, but factory owners rejected the demand, offering a paltry 20 percent raise.
“We are not the object of mercy, the economy moves with our toil,” Akter declared addressing Saturday’s rally.
Bangladesh’s garment industry has been swept with protests since the collapse of a factory in April killed more than 1,200 workers and injured over 2,500, with most victims women—one of many tragedies to sweep the country’s dangerous garment industry. While the catastrophe captured global headlines, little has been done to improve the bleak conditions of an industry that sells to numerous U.S.-based corporations, including Walmart, Gap, Sears, Disney, and Benetton.
“[W]e want these jobs with dignity,” Akter declared previously, “with safe working conditions, decent wages, and a voice in the workplace, and a unionized work place.”