The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.
This newsletter appears one week in advance of the fifth anniversary of Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, the worst disaster in the history of factory-based garment production. Evidence had been legion of the construction defects of the Rana Plaza factories in the Dhaka District of Bangladesh. In fact, on the morning of April 24th, some of the 3,639 Rana Plaza workers had pointed out large cracks in the factory walls and refused to enter. Factory owner, Sohel Rana, is reported to have threatened the circumspect workers with non payment for the month of April and, with hired goons, forced their entry into the building. Less than an hour later, 1,135 workers perished in the collapsing buildings.
In their trenchant article for New Labor Forum, Rich Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein reveal the great degree of integration between corporate brands and retailers and the manufacturers of the global south that source their product. This global supply chain functions under a legal regime that absolves those brands and retailers of responsibility for the substandard pay and working conditions that undergirds this business model.
This week, from April 18-24, students, union members, consumers, and activists around the world will participate in a Global Week of Action calling on apparel brands to sign the 2018 Accord, a promising initiative discussed in the Appelbaum and Lichtenstein article, to hold powerful retailers and brands responsible for working conditions in supplier factories. In the United States, demonstrations will take place at A&F stores around the country on Saturday, April 21.
Table of Contents
- An Accident in History/ Rich Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein, New Labor Forum
- Global Week of Action/ United Students Against Sweatshops
- Are factories better in Bangladesh after Rana Plaza? That depends on who you ask/ Andrea Crossan and Jasmine Garsd, Public Radio International, The World
- “Rana Plaza” Poem/ Eileen Ridge
Photo by rijans via flickr (CC-BY-SA)
By Michael O’Neil, for Trade Unions for Energy Democracy
In the Chittagong district of Bangladesh, thousands of villagers held what they described as a peaceful protest over multiple days at the construction site of twin coal-fired power plants. The plants, costing $2.4 billion, are backed by Chinese companies and the project had just commenced leveling farmland to prepare for construction.
Police opened fire on the villagers on Monday, claiming the protesters had injured 11 officers. Four protesters were killed, with dozens more wounded. According to the district Police Chief, charges have been filed against 3,200 protesters although, incredibly, only 57 individuals have actually been named in the cases.
According to Agence France-Presse, protesters are concerned that the mass case filed by the police:
“…could give authorities extra powers to harass or detain anyone protesting against the project.
‘Police will now use their power indiscriminately against any villager who speaks against the plants,’ a schoolteacher who lives in the village told AFP by phone on condition of anonymity.”
Today, “hundreds of villagers” regrouped at the construction site to demand justice for the four killed on Monday, and relatives of two victims have filed cases against the police.
Photo by DFID via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)
By Mohammad Amin
Growing up in the overcrowded capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, I learned how to live and work for others. Dhaka is rife with inequality and disorder. A few possess wealth and power; while many bear all the burdens of rapid urbanization, political instability, poverty, and socio-economic inequality. One insight into this rampant inequality is apparent on the roads. Only five percent of people own a private car, yet these cars obstruct the city streets, which are already narrow for the overpopulated city, leaving the other ninety-five percent of the population to wait in overloaded public transit centers. Even as a young high school student, I saw firsthand the devastating inequality and injustice in that city.
After high school graduation, I was fortunate to be accepted into the University of Dhaka, where the admissions ratio is almost 1 is to 80. Providing almost free tuition for higher education, the university hosts some of the most talented students and scholars who come from every social status and geographic areas of the country. As the oldest university in the country, it also sits in the heart of Bangladeshi culture, politics, and socioeconomic mobility. Continue reading Becoming a Labor Activist: A Student’s Story