Archive for the 'Bangladesh' Category

21
May
14

For Bangladeshi Women, Factory Work Is Worth the Risks – Businessweek

For Bangladeshi Women, Factory Work Is Worth the Risks – Businessweek.  The following article is a Pro-Free Trade Article, which is trying to defend why its okay for Americans to buy from Bangladesh. I will not interfere with the article but I will put in my [ editor’s brackets] where it is appropriate.

From Businessweek May 21, 2014

For Bangladeshi Women, Factory Work is Worth the Risks

Akhter with her daughter, Riza, next to the shed they call home

Akhter with her daughter, Riza, next to the shed they call home

To give her daughter opportunities neither she nor her mother had, Nazma Akhter made the only choices possible for a poor, illiterate woman in Bangladesh [the only choice? She had children]. She fled her village, bolting the door behind her so her mother couldn’t chase her down. She moved to Dhaka, the capital, and began living in a shed the size of a parking space. She worked 12-hour days making jeans, T-shirts, and dresses, earning no more than $98 a month.

The income was just enough to allow Akhter to bring her family to Dhaka and put her daughter, Riza, in school. Then, on Nov. 24, 2012, a fire broke out in the Tazreen Fashions factory where Akhter worked. The blaze killed 112 of her co-workers. A worse disaster followed. On April 24 last year, 1,129 perished when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed.

For Akhter, who guesses she’s in her early thirties, the fallout from Tazreen has been severe. She unravels her sari to show the scar on her back from hours of surgery after she jumped out of the building, falling two stories, to escape the fire. She still can’t work. But she says she’d do it all again if it meant that Riza, now 10 and an excellent student, could get a good education and a shot at an office job—the girl’s dream. Nothing could be further from the life lived by Akhter’s mother, who still pulls stalks of rice in paddy fields. “God, she worked so hard,” says Akhter, whispering in the shed as her three children sleep in the afternoon heat. “My mother couldn’t stand straight anymore. I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t make my daughter live like that.”

The paradox of Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry, where substandard practices have resulted in the deaths of at least 2,000 people since 2005, is that it’s virtually the only way for the nation’s women and girls to claw their way out of poverty and illiteracy. For some 3.5 million Bangladeshis, mostly women, the 10-hour shifts [it usually more like 12 to 15 hour shifts] spent hunched over a sewing machine offer a once-in-a-generation chance to better their lives.

“My mother couldn’t stand straight anymore. I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t make my daughter live like that.” —Nazma Akhter

In 2011 about 12 percent of Bangladeshi women ages 15 to 30 [did you note the ages of what they call women? I wouldn’t call age 15 a woman] worked in the garment industry, according to a study by Rachel Heath of the University of Washington and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University’s School of Management. Pay was 13 percent greater than in other industries that rely on manual labor. Perhaps most important, the researchers found, 27 percent more young girls were attending school than before the garment industry existed. [Are you saying that there is an increase of just young girls (not boys) because the factory workers can pay for schooling out of their own pockets now or are you saying it is because there are many more city-dwellers than in agriculture due to this massive shift in population due to the influx of factories?]

Young as she is, Riza, a poetry-obsessed math whiz, understands that her mother’s job was an essential step in her family’s quest for security and prosperity. “Tell me something,” she asks. “Do offices catch fire like factories do? Because I want to work in an office someday.” [Yes, offices can just as easily catch fire in Bangladesh due to substandard building codes and enforcement, too.]

For Bangladesh, a nation dismissed by Henry Kissinger as a “basket case” after its violent birth in 1971, and which has since endured several political coups and uprisings, garment making has been a godsend. It now accounts for 6 percent of gross domestic product and last year made up almost 80 percent of exports. “Don’t forget that this industry has allowed Bangladesh to cut poverty by a third. Don’t forget that it has created milions of jobs. [That used to be American jobs].  Don’t forget that it has helped put more young girls in school than ever before,” says Gilbert Houngbo, deputy director general of the International Labour Organization, which has funneled millions of dollars in the past year into inspections of Bangladeshi factories. [I find the word “funneled” to be a strange choice of words to do inspections] “On the other hand, you can’t do that at the expense of women’s basic rights—the right to feel safe, to be safe, to have decent work environments.”

On a steamy afternoon, Akhter relives the day she almost died. She waves with her hands as she describes the smoke filling the air on her floor of the factory. She feigns a limp to demonstrate how her leg was stuck in a pile of bodies. Suddenly she starts howling, the memories still sharp. The cries awaken Riza as neighbors crowd into the shed to hear the story. The girl slips off of a thin sheet on the floor and starts putting things in her school bag, even though classes are over for the day. Three notebooks, a small box with a pencil, a sharpener and half an eraser, a book of Bengali grammar, and an empty lunchbox barely fit into her used Hannah Montana backpack.

Conclusion from the Editor

Yes, it is certainly a feel-good story that should warm the heart of any major industrialist. But before we start patting ourselves on the back for improving poverty in Bangladesh, just remember that the original reason why American jobs were moved to Bangladesh had nothing to do with improving the poverty level of Bangladesh, it was about making money. If the corporations had the welfare of the people in mind, they would have funded all their schools and radically improved their infrastructure – none of this has been done.

So, in reality, we are left with a 30 year old previously healthy woman, who is now permanently and totally physically disabled and with a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to boot. Plus, she has  three children that depend on her support. The problem is obvious, Akhter is without a job, and gets no disability pay and probably has some enormous hospital bills (unless she sues, which is highly unlikely). She has no visible means of support, and is unlikely to find work or a man that will support her, ever. Yes, happy endings. This story makes me so happy that we shipped our American jobs to Bangladesh. Long live “Free Trade” and the World Trade Organization.

 

24
Apr
14

The Photojournalist Who Happened Upon The Worst Disaster In The History Of The Clothing Industry

The Photojournalist Who Happened Upon The Worst Disaster In The History Of The Clothing Industry. This is one year anniversary of the largest disaster in garment manufacturing history. On April 24, 2013, 1138 garment workers died when the Rana Building in Bangladesh collapsed due to shoddy construction and incompetent management which kept people working in known dangerous conditions.  This is a 5 minute and 10 second video from photographer, Ismail Ferdous,  who was there at the time. The video is called “The Deadly Cost of Fashion.” (From Upworthy).

Don’t forget to see my original posts about the Bangladesh disasters under “Categories” – Bangladesh. See especially the two posts: “Second Massive Disaster to Bangladesh Clothing Factory Within 5 Months.” and  “Reform Follows Bangladesh Tragedies except Wal-Mart Refuses to Sign Up.” Wal-Mart has pretty much blocked any reforms that should have followed this disaster, while initially promising to change.

Bangladesh Factory collapse

Bangladesh Factory collapse

The Pope Speaks Out

On May 1, 2013, Pope Francis spoke out against the working conditions in the factory:

A Headline that really struck me on the day of the tragedy in Bangladesh was ‘Living on 38 Euros a month’. That is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labor. Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation?! Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!

Petition

There is a petition out to have Wal-Mart and Children’s Palace help with compensation for the 1,138 garment workers who perished in the Rana Building collapse. The link has the story of one employee who survived this disaster. His name is Aklima Khanam, who is 20 years old and has been working in garment factories since the age of 14 (Childhood Labor is legal in Bangladesh). Mr Khanam describes the working conditions at the Rana Building factory. People hear these stories all the time here in America, but, they, either, don’t believe them (denial) or they don’t care (apathy). I think it is a lot of both. (As long as it’s cheap). Petition to Fairly Compensate the Bangladesh factory Workers

CBS Money Watch Video

Here is another 2 minute 50 second video from CBS Money Watch called “The Bangladesh Factory Collapse One Year Later.” This interview basically says that nothing has changed and that something like this could happen again.

Conclusion

Do not buy from slave labor. It’s not worth it. I leave you with a quote from a Bangladeshi women after a factory fire that also killed 112 garment workers who were trapped inside due to chained up windows in November 29 2012, “They died for your clothes.”




																
07
Nov
13

The True Cost by Andrew — Kickstarter

The True Cost by Andrew — Kickstarter. There is a new Kickstarter project with only 4 days to go to fund. It is a movie called “The True Cost” by Andrew Morgan of Los Angeles. The movie is about the outsourcing of our garment industry to the very poor Asian countries and its devastating effects not just to the US economy but also to the people who make the garments. See the 4:36 minute video. It looks like one great film, very professional. Just because something happens overseas does not mean it doesn’t impact your own life.

The True Cost

The True Cost

A quote from the Huffington Post on this project: The eyes of the world are opening and I believe history is giving us this moment to choose a better path forward. Now is the time for a new narrative, as fashion pioneer Safia Minney recently said, a world were “creativity, compassion, and consumption learn to go hand in hand.”

From a personal viewpoint, I do know that this outsourcing and slave labor movements as wrong, but I have never  tried to place this (present time) into an historical perspective. This past year there have been movies about civil rights (Lee Hamilton’s The Butler) and slavery (12 years a Slave and Lincoln), and I know, and history has proven, what horrendous policies they were. But, what if I had been living in that exact time period? Would I just go along like everybody else? The answer is I hope not, but, the real answer is probably. What we Americans are doing is just plain wrong. We have made slaves out of the extremely dirt poor people in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Phillipines, just so we can have our nice fancy clothes that may be a couple of dollars cheaper so we can buy some more fancy cheap disposable clothes. Ah! what it is to be an American in 2013, so rich (compared to the rest of the world), so entitled. What did you say? Let them eat Cake?! Oh, Muffy, you are so drool.

I leave you with one quote from a person who lost a loved one in the (Tarzeen factory) Bangladesh fire last year that killed 112: “They die for your clothing”. My message to the GAP, Wal-Mart, and the other multi-national corporations that profit by slave labor: You can keep your “Blood Clothing.”

Update November 10, 2013: Congratulations to Andrew Morgan who just reached his Kickstarter funding goal for The True Cost.

12
Oct
13

I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop. Meet my 9-year-old boss | Toronto Star

I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop. Meet my 9-year-old boss | Toronto Star. This is a must see video from a Toronto Star reporter working undercover in a Bangladesh garment factory for four days. Her boss was a nine year old. Thanks to Amy from American-Made Guide to Life for featuring this on her Facebook page.

For more information, you can see several of my other Bangladesh blog entries under subject: Bangladesh.

If you support childhood labor, continue to buy your garments from Bangladesh. If you think this practice should be banned, boycott Bangladesh made clothing.

10
Oct
13

Bangladesh garment factory fire kills 10 – CBS News

Bangladesh garment factory fire kills 10 – CBS News. Another factory fire in a clothing garment factory in Bangladesh on October 8, 2013.  Just six months after factory building collapse that killed 1127 factory workers and less than one year ago when a factory fire killed 112, a fire in the Aswad Garment Factory in Gazipur, outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed 10 people. The Bangladesh government, which has been under considerable pressure to make their factory environment safer since the last two devastating tragedies, has been in negotiations to improving their safety standards. These negotiations have been hamstrung by companies like Wal-Mart and the GAP who do not want extensive improvements, well, at least, they do not want those improvements to occur upon their backs, even though they are the major contractors that employ these small companies to make their clothes.

One great thing about this CBS News link is a separate story where a reporter (Holly Williams) goes undercover, acting as a buyer, at a Bangladesh garment factory. Ms. Williams finds under-aged clothing workers toiling in terrible working conditions within a fire trap. She also finds teenage kids spraying jeans with Potassium Permanganate to “age” jeans using minimal safety precautions.

Avoid cheap, disposable clothing under hazardous conditions. Buy American.

17
Aug
13

Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour – The Observer

Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour | World news | The Observer. This is an excerpt from the article published by the Observer on July 27, 2013 written by Gethin Chamberlain: ” …(Western/American) consumers want to feel that they are being ethical. But they don’t want to pay more. They are prepared to believe in the brands they love. Companies know this. They know if they make the right noises about behaving ethically, their customers will turn a blind eye.

Children rescued from Bangladesh factories

Rescued children from trafficking, waiting for parents, in Bihar, India

So they come down on suppliers highlighted by the media. They sign up to the certification scheme… Look, they say, we are good guys now. We audit our factories. We have rules, codes of conduct, mission statements. We are ethical. BUT THEY ARE NOT. What they have done is purchase an ethical fig leaf.

In the last few years, companies have gotten smarter. It is rare now to find children in the top level of the supply chain, because brands know this is PR suicide. But the children are still there, stitching away in the backstreets of the slums.”

Editorial Conclusion

Companies could act truly ethical if it really had to. But, at this time, it is much easier to say false reassurances and blow smoke over the media after each disaster in Bangladesh or elsewhere than make real reforms. The companies realize that their is a lot of child labor going on, it is a very well-known and well-documented fact, yet they don’t want you to know that they know all this – they believe that the American public is so gullible. Until the consumer actually stops buying their products will companies change their behavior.

In July, Walmart, the GAP, Kohl’s and other US retailers signed an agreement as an alternative to the European agreement (according to the New York Times) to make Bangladesh factories safer. It is much less comprehensive, and doesn’t promise any definitive monetary commitments to Bangladesh. Plus, the onus is on Bangladeshi factory owners to improve their workplaces. Look, this American plan is pure smoke and mirrors. The American companies are again trying to say it is not their problem, even though they are directly employing these factories and factory workers.

Maybe we are seeing inroads with ethical spending. It could be that Walmart, one of the worst offenders of ethical behavior, which has recently posted disappointing sales, may be the victim of boycotts of consumers that feel ethically compromised by shopping there. It is just possible. Maybe, or it could just be wishful thinking. I, also, like to think that China’s disappointing export numbers are due to more people buying American.

Buy ethically made products, avoid products that are made unethically and the stores that promote them. Buy American.

29
Jun
13

U.S. to Suspend Trade Privileges With Bangladesh – NYTimes.com

Obama to Suspend Trade Privileges With Bangladesh – NYTimes.com. From the New York Times, written by Steven Greenhouse, June 27, 2013.

The Obama administration on Thursday announced plans to suspend trade privileges for Bangladesh over concerns about safety problems and labor rights violations in that country’s garment industry.

The administration has come under intense pressure to suspend Bangladesh’s trade privileges after a factory building there collapsed in April, killing 1,129 workers, and after a factory fire killed 112 workers in November.

In a letter to Congress on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States would withdraw trade privileges to Bangladesh because it was “not taking steps to afford internationally recognized workers rights.”

Labor unions and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pressing the Obama administration to take this step. Bangladesh is allowed to export nearly 5,000 products duty-free to the United States, which purchases about 25% of the country’s $18 Billion in annual apparel exports.

Bangladesh is among more than 125 countries that receives such breaks on U.S. tariffs under a Generalized System of Preferences, a World Trade Organization program that is intended to promote economic growth around the globe.

In recent weeks, officials in the Labor Department have called for revoking Bangladesh’s special trade status, saying the United States needs to take strong action. Labor officials have asserted that the garment industry has been dragging its feet in improving safety and ending violations of workers’ right to form labor unions. At the same time, some State Department officials have pushed against suspending the trade privileges, saying it would damage diplomatic relations and undermine the economy of an already poor country.

At a hearing in March held by the trade representative’s office, a top official in Bangladesh’s Commerce Ministry said, “Compliance with rights, including labor rights, will necessarily be gradual,” in poor countries like Bangladesh.

The administration’s move comes in response to an official complaint that the AFL-CIO filed in 2007. The labor federation was upset about factory fires and a 2005 factory collapse in Bangladesh, as well as the extensive efforts by that country’s garment manufacturers to suppress labor unions.

Administration officials took that complaint with new seriousness after the Tazreen factory fire November and after the Rana Plaza factory building collapse two months ago in what was the most deadly accident in the history of the world’s apparel industry.

Editor’s Note

These articles are sometimes very interesting in that they lift the veil off the secrets that dwell in all of our outsourcing. The one thing I learned is that the garments made in Bangladesh are not given a preferred tax rate, they actually are not taxed at all. And then there are 124 other countries that don’t pay import taxes at all.  No wonder American companies are leaving all the time. The U.S. actually is packing their bags and making them move.

Another item, which I find entirely hilarious is that there are people in the State Department who do not want to take action after two of the worst factory disasters in history. If you suspend Bangladesh, you can always “unsuspend” them when they make the recommended changes, right? But, I find their excuses so funny. They are afraid that it will undermine an already poor economy. These people at the State Department could give a rat’s ass about the economy in Bangladesh, they are worried that some of their Fat Cat friends and CEO’s might have to make other arrangements to produce their cheaply manufactured garments. And worried about diplomatic relations with the U.S? The people in Bangladesh blame the United States for running these labor camps. They feel that their own Bangladeshi people die, just so Americans can have cheap clothes. Bangladesh would have more respect for the United States if they make these garment companies do the right thing (that had been agreed to many years ago).

The World Trade Organization is sometimes a villain when it comes to outsourcing from the United States to other countries. The WTO is also another reason why the U.S. doesn’t do anything about the outsourcing, plus the fact that we don’t have any political movement within Washington, DC.  But here are some of the major objections to the WTO: 1) WTO is run by the rich for the rich; 2) WTO is indifferent to the impact of free trade to workers’ rights, child labor, the environment and health; and 3) WTO lacks democratic accountability in that its hearing on trade disputes are closed to the public and the media.

Conclusion

It is absolutely the right decision to suspend Bangladesh’s preferred trade privilege status. The American companies, especially WalMart and the GAP, who were not making changes even after these terrible disasters. This is the only course of action that will change the constant state of neglect within Bangladesh. Also, maybe the United States should re-think being within the World Trade Organization. The U.S. needs to stop outsourcing and the hemorrhaging of  jobs. The U.S. lost 2,053,000 jobs overseas in 2012.




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