by Tawhid A Chowdhury
Preventive Case Planner
On December 6, 2012 I represented AAFSC at a rally organized by DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) in Jackson Heights, Queens to show solidarity with the garment workers who were killed in Bangladesh on November 24, 2012.
Bangladesh, once a poor and irrelevant country to the global economy, is now an export powerhouse. Second to China in global apparel exports, Bangladeshi factories churn out clothing for brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Calvin Klein and H&M. Global retailers like Target and Wal-Mart operate sourcing offices in the capital, Dhaka. Garments are critical to Bangladesh’s economy, it accounts for 80 percent of manufacturing exports and more than three million jobs.
Despite its position in the global economy, Bangladeshi workers conditions have not changed since the early 90’s. The minimum wage is $37 a month, which is almost half of our monthly telephone bill. Since 2005, almost 600 workers were killed in fires at their workplace and the number continues to rise
In March 2011, a conference was held at the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) headquarters in Dhaka to increase wages and safety of workers. Officials from Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Calvin Klein and Wal-Mart were present. At the conference most of these corporations declined to spend more on the safety of workers since they are only concerned with making profit.
“It is our duty that we stand up in solidarity with those workers who get paid 55 cents an hour, and to fight for their rights,” said Saima Khan, a leader with Desis Rising Up and Moving, which assists South Asian low-wage immigrant workers, youth and families in New York City to gain a more powerful voice. “We will hold those corporations responsible for the lives of those workers. We will make them accountable.”n Heights); Vamos Unidos, which organizes street venders; WalMart Free Corporation, which advocates to keep the retailer out of New York City; and other citywide organizations and activists.
Protester Harrison Magee, a Queens native, was one many factory workers at a Walmart distribution center in Chicago to instigate a 21-day strike last fall.
DRUM members were joined by Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights); Vamos Unidos, which organizes street vendors; WalMart Free Corporation, which advocates to keep the retailer out of New York City; and other citywide organizations and activists.
Protester Harrison Magee, a Queens native, was one of the many factory workers at a Walmart distribution center in Chicago to instigate a 21-day strike last fall.
Each person’s testimony was followed by chants “Workers Rights are Human Rights,” in English, Spanish and Bengali.