Jonathan goes digging into the world of the global sweatshop, talking with global workers rights advocate Shawna Bader-Blau on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Bangladesh factory fire …
Forgotten in the rubble of Rana Plaza is a horrific that took place at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Bangladesh. The fire killed 112 human beings whose families have been trying to get a bit of compensation for the loss of their loves ones. And some of that is happening…of course, not with the help of Wal-Mart.
Over the years, I’ve consistently referred to Wal-Mart as The Beast of Bentonville because of its conduct at every level. Beastly. And, now, it’s topping even the despicable low standards it set to date. To the families of more than 1,200 people killed, and many more injured, who are seeking a bit of compensation money, the Beast of Bentonville is raising its corporate middle finger and saying “get fucked”.
There has been this back and forth about how to improve conditions between the companies who make a profit on the backs of dead people…well, truly, that’s the reality of profits in the garment industry — you either die standing up at work, die later because your body is broken down from slaving away for pennies or you die quickly, or perhaps slowly, when places like the Rana Plaza collapse. Now, there is a new turn in the story — and I remain skeptical still that much will change.
I’m going to guess that most people have already forgotten the tragedy of Rana Plaza. It’s far, far away for most Westerners. But, in Bangladesh, the horror of Rana has left at least the workers ready to press on to upgrade life.
Uh, it’s not a come on…seriously. If it’s a casual day, and you are just lounging around your house or walking the streets, just curious if your clothes carry a Gap or Old Navy label. Yeah, you know what’s coming — blood, sweat and tears put that on your back.
This “garment” comes cheap to billion-dollar corporations like Wal-Mart — a $45 million outlay to cover up safety and health in factories in Bangladesh. Cheap. At the cost of more human life, you can bank on it.
Panic is setting in among some of those retailers who troll the far reaches of the planet looking for cheap labor to exploit. And it’s a panic that is about loss of profit and control.
Well, I saw a day or two ago that the Administration was going to cut off Bangladesh’s trade preferences. In one sense, okay, finally. But, on the other hand, it’s sort of a minor thing if you are thinking “this will protect workers”.
I’m typically quite critical of the traditional media’s refusal to write about workers’ struggles on a regular basis, and without the “free market” spin. But this is an example of a strong story.
Gee, scratch your head. Hundreds of people die in a horrific garment factory fire in Bangladesh. Then, just yesterday, 120 people die in a poultry factory in China. Is there a connection? Of course.
I personally don’t need anything more to be outraged about the murder of hundreds of garment workers in the Bangladesh factory collapse. But, in these situations, a little something can trigger more outrage. I lost it after reading this.
I’ve written a ton about phony so-called “free trade” and, a close cousin, the whole system of Generalized System of Preferences, which basically is a sham run by the World Trade Organization to open up countries to be plundered by big corporations. But, since the system exists right now, it’s a point of leverage to move a bit of safety into the lives of the garment workers in Bangladesh.
In the annals of “this is no surprise” let me chalk up yet another example of the immoral behavior of the Wal-Mart family: it is not interested in signing on to a broadly accepted new safety code of practice in Bangladesh. No–the greed and avarice of the five Walton heirs, each of whom is worth around $20 billion, has no upper limit. Even if it means people get killed — though I guess if they aren’t white people and they are far away in another land, the Waltons just don’t care.
The ghastly industrial killing field in the garment factory in Bangladesh has now claimed over 1,100 lives. Hard to even fathom. But, there is a sliver of hope that out of this massacre of workers will come a little improvement.
The toll has risen to more than 800 in Bangladesh. I suppose that must be a threshold of human death and suffering that even Wal-Mart can’t ignore. So, the Beast of Bentonville and some of its sidekicks are getting together to set, uh, labor standards.
Bodies. More bodies. More horror.
I’m not sure what the ILO has in mind or can do — it is hostage to the politics of inertia. But, at least there is a chance this will keep the pressure on.
In the horror of the collapse of the garment factory building in Bangladesh, I’m left to thinking how many people have died over many years of exploitation in garment factories and others factories in places like Bangladesh — and the unfortunate reality that the people most responsible for those deaths will never be held accountable: CEOs of U.S. corporations.
When I first read about the horrendous fire in Bangladesh, I immediately thought of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911 — more than 100 years ago. In many ways, nothing has changed. In some ways, somethings have changed.
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