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.
On the evening of May 1, 2010, firefighters from Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854 in New York City got a call about a car fire in Times Square. Six minutes later, Lts. Mike Barvels and John Kazan arrived on the scene to find an SUV parked with one wheel on a curb, hazard lights blinking. The firefighters spotted a number of warning signs, most importantly the white, slow-moving smoke coming from the vehicle. They knew typical car fires involve dark, billowing smoke. Barvels and Kazan decided not to use their fire hose on the truck and instead called for experts to come investigate.
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.
Members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) were some of the first responders at the recent Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting. Aurora Local 1290 firefighters not only assisted at the movie theater but also at alleged shooter James Holmes’ apartment.
Last year, after the June Textiles garment factory in Cambodia burned down, the 4,000 workers—some of whom had put in 18 years on the job—were offered $20 each in compensation for losing their livelihoods. Period.
That’s when the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center stepped in, working with the factory’s new owner, H&M, and through the country’s legal system, ultimately winning an unprecedented settlement that ensured they could support their families.
Several hundred members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) from locals surrounding the wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico are working hard to contain the blazes. Fortunately, there have been no reports of major firefighter injury. IAFF 9th District Vice President Randy Atkinson says:
Getting a wildfire under control in that part of the state is difficult because of the tough terrain. There are a lot of canyons, so just getting to the fire is a challenge.
March 25 is the 100thanniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City, which killed 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, many of whom jumped to their deaths from the 10-story factory to escape the fire because they were locked inside.