The Bangladesh Cabinet approved a change to the nation’s labor laws that it says would enable workers to more freely form unions. The proposal, which must be approved by Parliament, would allow workers to join unions without showing the list of union supporters to factory owners to verify their employment—a practice that effectively makes it impossible for unions to gather sufficient support to register with the government because factory owners often penalize or fire workers who support unionization.
Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh factory that collapsed three weeks ago, killed more than 1,100 workers, many of them young women. This tragedy adds to the more than 1,500 Bangladeshi workers killed in preventable fires and building collapses since 2005. Documents found at the factory show that the workers produced for big names in global retail, revealing the link between poor workers in Bangladesh and major retail brands. Obviously, the government must improve local laws and their enforcement to stop these tragedies, but brands also must take responsibility for their supply chains. They must be held accountable to the tragedy that happened in their supply chain.
Last year, local Bangladeshi and international unions and workers’ rights groups negotiated an agreement to stop these deaths and help Bangladesh’s garment workers claim their rights. Two brands signed the agreement; the other major brands must sign on now!
After last week's Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, which killed at least 377 garment workers, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) started a petition calling on three of the leading users of Bangladeshi garment workers—Walmart, the Gap and H&M—to demand that factories in the country be made safe for workers. The building collapse is already the deadliest garment factory disaster in known history and the death toll is not yet final. USAS says the deaths could have easily been prevented, as cracks appeared in the structure the day before it collapsed. Workers were ordered to work in the building anyway, under threat of losing a month's pay.
UPDATE 04/29/2013: The death toll as of this morning stands at 377 and hundreds of people remain missing, reports The New York Times. CNN reports that authorities have arrested six people: three factory owners, two government engineers and the owner of the building, Sohel Rana—a local-level leader of the ruling Awamil League— who was caught as he tried to flee the country.
More than 300 workers now have been confirmed dead from Wednesday’s building collapse in Bangladesh. Some 2,200 survivors have been pulled from the ruins of what is being called one of the worst manufacturing disasters in history. More than 3,000 garment workers were on the job when upper building floors pancaked on top of each other.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered the arrest of the building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front, who told factory operators the building was safe. Hasina also has ordered the arrest of five garment factory owners.
Tragedy struck again in Bangladesh this morning when a building that housed several garment factories collapsed, killing at least 194 people, mostly garment workers, injuring hundreds of others and trapping an unknown number of people in the rubble. A number of shops were also in the building.
Would you trust that your food is clean and uncontaminated, the plane you’re flying in airworthy or your workplace safe, if those were certified by companies counting on the profits they’ll make from your purchases, travel and labor? Of course not.
But that’s the dilemma millions of workers around the world face—often with deadly results—when it comes to their safety on the job, a new report from the AFL-CIO reveals:
Today is the 102nd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York's Greenwich Village. This tragedy took the lives of 146 young immigrant garment workers. Most were trapped and died behind the building’s locked doors and others plunged to their deaths as they jumped from windows from the eighth floor and above.
It also galvanized a movement to raise workplace safety standards and enact other labor law reforms.
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial, American Unions vs. Bangladesh's Workers (subscription only), dismisses poverty and workers' rights in a country where devastating garment factory fires have killed 119 people in recent months, which the Journal has reported on. The editorial makes several erroneous points about garment workers in Bangladesh, and the threat to remove the country's duty-free status because of workers' rights violations.
Seven young women, at least two of them teenagers, died over the weekend in a Bangladesh garment factory fire—the 28th fire incident to frighten, injure or kill Bangladeshi garment workers since a deadly blaze at the Tazreen Fashion factory killed at least 112 workers in late November, according to the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center staff in Bangladesh. At least 491 garment workers have been injured on the job since the Tazreen blaze, according to information compiled by the Solidarity Center. The Solidarity Center's mission is to help build a global labor movement by strengthening the economic and political power of workers around the world through effective, independent and democratic unions.