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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Labor & Workers
Ted Rudow III, MA, Palo Alto, CA
The Bangladesh government declared a period of national mourning for more than 120 garment workers who died in a fire at a factory that supplied U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart, among others.
Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, said, "It really is an extraordinary achievement, in an ironic sense, that the U.S. apparel industry has managed to replicate early 20th century conditions, that were so brutal and cruel to workers, now again here in 2012 in factories in places like Bangladesh. It's a shameful record for the U.S. apparel industry." Meanwhile, a second fire broke out in a separate garment factory in Dhaka, though no deaths were reported. Thousands of garment workers took to the streets on two consecutive days to protest their unsafe conditions and demanded justice. Survivors of the fire were among them.
After China, retailers like Wal-Mart are being offered exactly what they want, which is the cheapest labour costs in the world. And they achieve those low labour costs by paying minimum wages of 18 to 20 cents an hour and by completely ignoring fundamental worker safety protections. The bottom line is that Wal-Mart goods, as they've now admitted, were being produced in this factory, and Wal-Mart is responsible for protecting the rights and the safety of the workers who make its clothing.