Bangladesh garment workers struggle to air complaints as industry dominates economy, politics

  • Article by: JULHAS ALAM , Associated Press
  • Updated: November 27, 2012 - 5:44 AM

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Clothing is king in Bangladesh, a country that exports more garments than any other in the world except China. It is responsible for four out of every five export dollars and has turned factory owners into members of parliament and leaders of sports clubs.

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luzhishenNov. 26, 12 7:03 AM

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire II.

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dogmanNov. 26, 12 8:50 AM

"The country annually earns about $20 billion from exports of garment products, mainly to the U.S. and Europe" -- just think how much more net earnings they could realize if they didn't have the added expense of providing defective fire extinguishers as props. I blame job-killing gov't regulations for cutting back on revenue.

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millman157Nov. 26, 12 9:22 AM

The first thing I thought of was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Remember goods are cheaper when we outsource. Out of sight out of mind. As our leaders sign more and more trade agreements, and adhere to calls for more deregulation, what goes around comes around. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we can give thanks to the strides we’ve made as a country in protecting workers and raising our standards of living here in the good old U.S. of A. On March 25, 2011, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis spoke at a rally in New York City commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. OSHA’s website celebrates “40 years of protecting workers” and also remembering the “the labor pioneers, safety advocates, community leaders and ordinary workers whose vision for a stronger America laid the foundations for the laws that keep workers safe and healthy today. The 100th anniversary of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in a New York City garment factory, marks a century of reforms that make up the core of OSHA's mission.” In summarizing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factor fire, OSHA reminds the public of the “tragic event that led to a ‘general awakening’ that continues to drive OSHA's commitment to workers.” "One hundred years ago on March 25, fire spread through the cramped Triangle Waist Company garment factory on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in lower Manhattan. Workers in the factory, many of whom were young women recently arrived from Europe, had little time or opportunity to escape. The rapidly spreading fire killed 146 workers. The building had only one fire escape, which collapsed during the rescue effort. Long tables and bulky machines trapped many of the victims. Panicked workers were crushed as they struggled with doors that were locked by managers to prevent theft, or doors that opened the wrong way. Only a few buckets of water were on hand to douse the flames. Outside, firefighters' ladders were too short to reach the top floors and ineffective safety nets ripped like paper."

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swmnguyNov. 26, 12 5:36 PM

I've sat in corporate meetings where merchants and vendors have met with the US Trade Representative, discussing just how close to the line of illegality a retailer can get. Terrycloth made in Bangladesh and cut into squares but without the edges hemmed can be sent to American Samoa for the edge-hemming, and then a "Made In USA" label can be put on it, sometimes with a note explaining "from components made in Bangladesh."

The arms-length relationships with vendor subcontractors are similarly dishonest. With enough middlemen in between, our retailers are still selling us sweatshop-made merchandise. The retailers hold "reverse auctions," where they grind down competing suppliers on per-piece prices until there's no way the items could be fabricated by a legitimate operator. As long as there is at least a shell company between the US retailer and the overseas sweatshop, it's all legal. Or, at least, on advice of counsel, the retailer can plead ignorance. They can ban a certain supplier, and then buy that supplier's items through a straw man intermediary.

When something like this happens, the retailer can shrug and point to the utterly meaningless fact that they are not writing the checks directly to that sweatshop operator. As we see in this story.

If these clothes were made in the USA,the profit margin would be lower, and the prices would be a bit higher. We need to ask ourselves, though, if a $5.97 t-shirt and a $7.44 polo are worth 112 lives, as opposed to paying $8.00 for the t-shirt and $10.00 for the polo. It appears to the rest of the world that we've already decided that question.

Anybody still wonder why "They" hate us?

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falcon1681Nov. 26, 12 8:10 PM

"The garment factory in Bangladesh where a weekend fire killed at least 112 people had been making clothes for Wal-Mart without the giant U.S. retailer's knowledge, Wal-Mart said." ---- Right. And Wal Mart doesn't destroy local competition and economies when it moves into an area....

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