Tag Archives: Bangladesh

The indifference of neoliberal capitalism to worker safety

There are millions of working people, including small children, who earn their livings doing this kind of hard, dangerous work with no protection & every possibility of death or permanent disability. There’s a long list of possible injuries these two laborers in Dhaka, Bangladesh could sustain–from back injuries to ruptures to being crushed to death. If society has the capability of splitting atoms & rocketing to the moon & if it is producing billionaires in every country from our labor, it sure as hell can provide appropriate equipment to get the work done without risking people’s lives.

(Photo by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Zuma Press)

May Day 2014 protests

There are so many remarkable photos from around the world of the International Labor Day protests today. They were from Germany, France, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cuba, Croatia, Russia, Greece, Spain, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Italy, Iraq. Protestors demanded higher wages, safety standards, & worker’s rights. Apparently riot cops don’t have the same appreciation as the rest of us for working people standing in solidarity since they came not to join protests but to attack them with truncheons, tear gas, & water cannons in several countries, particularly in Turkey, Cambodia, & Italy.

In Istanbul workers defied a ban on May Day protests & against gathering in Taksim Square, the venue of last summer’s uprising, by coming out in force. Police violence was extreme, especially the excessive use of tear gas. Many were injured. Cambodia also banned protests but sweatshop workers leading the protests were also out in force & sustained vicious beatings from riot cops.

It should be frankly acknowledged (& not without a certain amount of glee) that in some places riot cops appear to have gotten as good as they gave. Turkish protestors responded to police provocation with petrol bombs, Italian workers matched truncheon for truncheon, Cambodians held their ground despite the attacks. Workers from one labor organization in Manila danced around a burning effigy of Philippine president Aquino. (We’re gonna have to get those Filipino activists over here to teach us a thing or two.) There are no photos so far, as there have been in the past, of Greek workers matching police violence with paint bombs but we hope they’re only delayed in transmission.

Perhaps the most significant thing to note is the role of sweatshop workers who led the protests in Bangladesh & Cambodia. We hope retailers who think of sweatshop workers like oxen to be beaten & driven are terrified by the tsunami coming at them.

There are so many wonderful photos from today but this one of garment workers & others in Dhaka, Bangladesh demanding compensation for survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse & calling for workplace safety is one of the most impressive. We can well understand the political opposition to women’s rights when we see them playing such leading roles in social struggles of every kind all over this planet. The future looks brighter already.

US workers appear to be a hopeless lot & historically we are slow to act. We’re not dull-witted, just conservative when it comes to getting off our asses. But when we move we hold our own admirably. Our ancestors have many proud achievements to show for that. We’re not likely ever to put Filipino activists to shame but some of us will die trying.

Hats off to our brothers & sisters around the world! Solidarity forever is not just a slogan but our commitment.

(Photo by Andrew Biraj/Reuters)

Child labor in Bangladesh sweatshops

This iconic photo is from a sweatshop worker’s strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh in June 2010. Police used tear gas, truncheons, & water cannons against mostly women & child workers demanding back pay & an immediate increase in monthly wages. At that time, garment workers had no minimum wage standard & were paid below the World Bank poverty standard of $1.25 a day–when they were paid. In US dollars they received $21.45 a month; in Bangladesh taka that is 1662.50 & in Euros about €17. No matter which currency you use it all comes out to chump change.

There had been labor conflict for several weeks prior to this strike but on this day workers erected barricades, pelted cops with rocks, & attacked cars. Police described the fighting as the worst yet seen & may explain why riot cops now show up at labor protests with rubber bullets. They might want to brace themselves for the labor tsunami erupting among sweatshop workers in Bangladesh & elsewhere.

This photo is posted for those apologists who want to let the Bangladesh government off the hook for it’s culpability protecting sweatshop manufacturing. May the struggles of sweatshop workers around the world inspire us in the historic task of socially transforming labor & ridding this beautiful planet of all exploitation. May these child workers of Dhaka lead the way in ending the abomination of child labor.

(Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

Sweatshop industry waging public relations campaign for respectability

The sweatshop industry isn’t going down without a fight. To counter the harrowing images & news from Bangladesh & Cambodian garment factories, they’ve launched a public relations campaign. They’ve thrown down the gauntlet & are going to fight their way back from damnation to respectability. The first volley came in a Los Angeles Times series by a reporter named Kenneth R. Weiss. Our man Weiss holds many journalist awards–which says nothing about his talents but plenty about the state of US journalism. Suitably, he holds a bachelor’s degree in folklore & probably a minor in active imagination. He was given a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to fabricate fairy tales on sweatshop workers in Bangladesh.

In the banal journalistic style so popular today, Weiss picks out a single Bangladeshi woman to give testimony to the emancipating affects of sweatshop work on her life. He probably had to bribe her with a couple free meals since sweatshop wages aren’t enough to buy food.

Weiss does make an obligatory reference to “horrific industrial accidents & accusations of labor abuses” but says the picture of sweatshop labor “gets more complicated” when you account for the lack of options for women “in this poor, traditional Muslim society.” So our man makes the case for sweatshops as part of women’s liberation & gets to throw in an Islamophobic swipe as well.

More important than knowing your opponents in politics is knowing your allies because the phony ones line up to position themselves for a more bitter betrayal. Weiss quotes Sajeda Amin as an authority on how sweatshops have created greater independence for women in Bangladesh. Amin is a sociologist from Bangladesh working for the Population Council in New York & has a whole list of impressive credentials–particularly from the eugenics movement. She has a special interest in young women since she wants them all sterilized to address overpopulation & poverty. Sustainable wages are no part of her equations.

Then Weiss drags out Charles Kernaghan, the director of Global Labor & Human Rights & a frequent spokesperson on Democracy Now about sweatshops. Hopefully Kernaghan is misquoted when he reportedly said ‘It’s fantastic they have this common industry to put women to work.’ Sweatshops are just barely a step above outright slavery & Kernaghan considers them “fantastic” rather than deplorable?

We would be wise to ignore these pathetic fools & apologists for exploitation & listen to the voices of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, & elsewhere around the world since sweatshop manufacturing is the wave of the future under neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. They tell a different story, filled with violence. We must respond to the mythology being stitched in media newsrooms & eugenics think tanks with the truth about sweatshop workers & their increasing strikes & struggles for economic & political justice.

Weiss is also preparing a series on overpopulation, hunger, & women’s rights & is being treated as an authority. He’s no longer receiving a wage from the LA Times but there’s no need to wonder who his paymaster is now. He hit the double jackpot for media jackasses & is likely collecting checks from both the sweatshop & eugenics industries. Shame on his sorry ass!

This photo of a sweatshop in Bangladesh accompanied the article by Weiss. Please note how spiffy & clean it looks & how well-dressed the sewers. It probably cost Walmart a bundle to stage that tableau.

(Photo via Pulitzer Center)