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Bangladesh: Brand Names and Mass Graves
Robert C. Koehler
Their cost, it turns out, is beyond calculation.
"Babul Mia said he identified his wife
So a fire swept through a sweatshop in Bangladesh on Nov. 24, killing at least 112 people, nearly half of whom were unidentifiable and buried in a mass grave. The sweatshop, which produced brand-name garments for major retail outlets such as
"Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," the local fire department operations director said.
The fire -- only the most recent such horror in a Bangladesh or other Third World sweatshop -- was eerily similar to the famous Triangle Shirtwaist fire on New York's Lower East Side a century earlier, an iconic event in the union movement that sparked major changes in working conditions throughout the country. Workers then were also trapped by locked exit doors; 146 of them died on March 25, 1911.
Interestingly, I did not see this obvious comparison drawn in most mainstream coverage of the Bangladesh fire, perhaps because, as
Apparently, this discussion is still off the table. We don't want to reopen the class warfare thing or look too critically at the global economic system. The problem belongs to Bangladesh, which is notoriously lax about worker safety, especially in the garment industry, where 4,000 factories produce
"The 25-year-old worker said whenever the automatic fire alarm goes off, the on-duty supervisors stop them from leaving the building." This is the
"Some workers said they sometimes have to work up to 24 hours at a stretch, but they are forced to tell the buyers that they work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day. 'If any worker tells buyers or their representatives about the actual working condition, he is either dismissed or fined,' said a worker."
Meanwhile, the big multinationals that get their cheap goods from Bangladesh are -- big surprise -- distancing themselves from Tazreen Fashions, the sweatshop where the fire occurred.
The notoriously exploitative
On Monday Walmart announced it had dumped that supplier, adding: "The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh."
In other words, this is mainly Third World ignorance operating here. Bangladesh factory operators need to learn to tell their foremen that when fire alarms go off, the workers should be allowed to exit the building and maybe exit doors shouldn't be locked and, while you're at it, let them organize trade unions and pay them more than
In point of fact,
The problem isn't the ruthless inhumanity of
Fire raced through a garment factory that supplies major retailers in the West, killing at least 112 people, many of whom were trapped by the flames because the building lacked emergency exits
112 Killed in Fire at Bangladesh Garment Factory
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