On August 24th, Bangladesh’s High Court imposed a six-month ban on the screening of a love story about a real-life survivor of the April 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza. The movie was scheduled to open today in theaters across Bangladesh. Litigants claimed the film negatively portrayed the nation’s US$25 billion garment industry by showing graphic television footage of what is considered the most gruesome industrial accident in history.
The court ordered the ban in response to a writ of petition filed by Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League (BNGWEL), identified as a group representing garment factory owners about which there is little information. Another petitioner in the writ is a man named Sirajul Islam Rony, identified as a trade union leader. On investigation, it turns out Rony is the president of BNGWEL. The apparent incongruity of this relationship will be cleared up shortly.
Sweatshop economics are one of the most malignant & characteristic features of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. Billions of dollars are invested in sweatshops–not just to extract cheap products but to devastate the economic, social, & political power of labor. Child labor & exploitation of women are integral to the system.
So when Rana Plaza exposed sweatshop barbarism as its never been exposed before, the captains of industry & government from Washington, DC to Dhaka went into action. You need bulldozers to shovel out the manure they’re piling on the situation to deny the victims of Rana Plaza their due.
One group that was formed is the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. It’s a shabby little fraud & a front for the retailers like Walmart & the Gap, for Washington politicians mandated to watch out for US sweatshops, & for Bangladeshi politicians, sweatshop owners, & corrupt union officials–like our man Rony, who sits on the board of the organization. If you read their self-promotion, you almost think they’re not full of horse manure; you almost believe they give a damn about the lives of sweatshop workers. But credulity is called up short by knowing Walmart–a multi-billion dollar a year retailer–only gave a paltry $1 million to the compensation fund for Rana victims.
But there’s a bigger scam involved–one run by NGOs, the UN’s International Labour Organization, & so-called global unions which are linked to official trade union federations in several countries. Global unions were formed primarily to counter radicals & socialists in the unions & keep working people solidly wedded (at least through their dues money) to the status quo. Mostly it’s union officials & lawyers associated with the officials claiming to represent millions of workers.
This second scam is called the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee (RPCC). That’s the one being heralded now for reaching the US$30 million target in the compensation fund for Rana Plaza victims & their dependents. While survivors of the catastrophe & their unions are marching demanding compensation, the RPCC is boasting of its accomplishments. The members of the RPCC are indistinguishable from the Walmart alliance group: big wheels & captains of industry & government, & the criminal retailers & none of the unions directly involved with garment workers but only the global ones who operate from Switzerland.
That’s why the compensation packages from that $30 million fund offered to the families of 1,138 victims & the 2,515 who were injured & often dismembered are so pathetic & offensive. They did actuarial tables trying to parse out the value of each person based on their income which in Bangladesh is the lowest minimum wage in the world.
What justice demands is that the compensation fund be put in the hands of the Rana Plaza survivors & their unions to control & manage. They would stuff those actuarial tables where the sun don’t shine & start doling out some justice to people who can never be compensated enough for what they have endured.
We need to ruthlessly investigate & expose the trickeries & phony alliances used to protect sweatshops around the world & expose & oppose the roles of our own union federations in perpetrating these crimes against women & children.
Our fullest respect & solidarity with the garment workers of Bangladesh.
Photo is of Rana Plaza movie poster being torn down in Dhaka.
(Photo from AP)