Posts filed under ‘Bangladesh’

End Gap & Walmart Death Trap Factories: Safe Workplaces for All 10 city tour, April 8-26, 2013

This tour will be coming to Washington with events at the University of WA (6:30-8:30 pm Savey Hall Room 260 at UW) and in Olympia (sponsored by Sweatfree NW and the South Sound Clean Clothes Campaign) April 23-(location to TBD)

WHAT: 10 city tour with Sumi Abedin, a survivor of the Tazreen fire, and Kalpona Akter, rd. executive director of Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity

WHEN: April 8-26, 2013

SPONSORS: Corporate Action Network, International Labor Rights Forum, Making Change at Walmart, SumOfUs, SweatFree Communities, United Students Against Sweatshops, and Warehouse Workers United

MORE INFO: All tour events will be posted on Corporate Action Network at


For more than a decade, Gap, Walmart and other major brands have produced clothes in Bangladesh factories that they know are fire traps. As a result, since 2006, over 600 apparel workers, mostly young women, have died in what could have been preventable factory fires.

Now, two major apparel makers—PVH/Tommy Hilfiger and the large German retailer, Tchibo—have signed a legally-binding fire safety agreement that calls for independent fire inspections of all of the Bangladesh factories they use and requires them to pay for the necessary measures to make these factories safe, and to give their workers a say in how to accomplish this. Gap and Walmart have refused to join that agreement and Walmart continues to obstruct efforts to achieve fire safety in the factories it uses in Bangladesh as reported in The New York Times on December 5, 2012 (“Documents Indicate Walmart Blocked Safety Push in Bangladesh”).

It’s time for Gap and Walmart to address their history of deadly negligence and take responsibility for workers’ safety before one more avoidable tragedy occurs.


* Demand that Gap and Walmart join the legally-binding fire safety agreement already signed by PVH/Tommy Hilfiger and German retailer Tchibo requiring independent fire inspections, workers’ voice in fire safety measures, and making retailers financially responsible for the necessary measures to prevent factory fires which have killed over 600 workers since 2006.

* Demand that Walmart pay the compensation it owes to families of the workers killed in the Tazreen fire and to injured workers.

* Demand that Walmart stop obstructing fire safety efforts in Bangladesh apparel factories as documented in The New York Times on December 5, 2012.


* During the tour visit:

o Nonviolent direct actions at prominent Walmart and Gap stores

o Delegation to Walmart and Gap headquarters

o Talks at universities in support of student activism urging university affiliation with the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization

o Meetings with state government policy makers to encourage the adoption of sweatfree procurement policies and membership in the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium

o Meetings with federal government to ask lawmakers to call on US companies to adopt binding fire safety agreements

* In any city anytime during April:

o Leaflet at your local Gap or Walmart store o Sign the petition to Gap at

o Sign the petition to Walmart at

o Repost tour highlights from @ILRF on twitter and


The tour will feature garment worker Sumi Abedin and labor rights advocate Kalpona Akter.

Sumi Abedin is a Bangladeshi garment worker who survived the November 24, 2012, fire that killed 112 workers at Tazreen Fashions, a factory that supplied Walmart, Disney, Sears, SeanJohn, and Dickies, and produced US Marines logo apparel for Delta Apparel / Soffe. Sumi was working on the 4th floor of the factory at the time of the fire and survived after jumping from the burning building.

Kalpona Akter is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), one of Bangladesh’s most prominent labor rights advocacy organizations, and is herself a former child garment worker. BCWS is regarded by the international labor rights movement and by multinational apparel companies as among the most effective grassroots labor organizations in the country. Levi Strauss & Co. calls BCWS “a globally respected labor rights organization, which has played a vital role in documenting and working to remedy labor violations in the apparel industry in Bangladesh.” Kalpona is an internationally-recognized labor rights advocate and has travelled widely to speak about the deplorable conditions that Bangladesh garment workers face every day. She was interviewed extensively by local and international media following the deadly fire at Tazreen Fashions in November 2012.

New York Times, December 28, 2012, “As Walmart Makes Safety Vows, It’s Seen as Obstacle to Change”:

“The Walmart system of audits and inspections is not improving the factory safety conditions here in Bangladesh,” said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “They maintain this system to enable them to keep their hands clean and deny responsibility.”


April 11, 2013 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Update on BCWS: Kalpona Atker arrested

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the labor rights struggles happening in Bangladesh.  I told you about the great work that the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) has done, but that they were struggling with the government to maintain their organizational rights. I am very sad to report that on August 13, 2010, a main figure head of the BCWS, Kalpona Atker was arrested for “inciting worker unrest.”  She was doing her part by advocating for garment workers’ rights, but has paid the price for her dedication to the cause and was taken to jail by 20 officers. Read more and take action HERE.


Wal-Mart is Bangladesh’s biggest customer. Knowing that, and the power behind the mega-brand, do you think Wal-Mart has an obligation to help the workers? Why might they not to choose to step in? Do these in-actions by corporations make you think twice about purchasing from them?

This is a follow to my recent post: $24 per month: The salary of 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh

August 27, 2010 at 6:58 am Leave a comment

$24 per month: The salary of 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh

Barely surviving on pennies per day

The country of Bangladesh is a major hub in the global garment industry with over 3 million workers and 4,500 factories, producing over $16 billion in exports for big brands like Zara, Carrefour, JC Penney and Wal-Mart.  But Bangladesh  also has the lowest minimum wage in the entire world: $24 per month. This law was established in 2006, at the same time a local NGO determined that it would take workers in the capital city of Dhaka $20 per month to meet the minimum calorie intake to survive.  Food prices since then have tripled, which means that workers in the garment factories can’t even afford to feed themselves, let alone provide for their children.  Life for these workers is a hellish daily struggle just to survive.

The role of the BCWS

But there has been some hope in the form of The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), an NGO started in 2001 to peacefully address labor rights issues.  The organization is well known in the community for its credible research, bringing awareness to the big issues, leadership training and conflict resolution.  While BCWS has many accomplishments, it has always had to deal with the government looking over its shoulders, literally tapping phone lines, intercepting emails and following workers.

As of June 3, 2010, the Bangladesh government officially revoked BCWS’s legal right to operate, and while no official reason has been given, it is speculated that it is due to BCWS’s support of a particular factory’s effort to unionize.  Things got really out of hand on June 16, 2010, when BCWS staff member Aminul Islam was captured, blindfolded and beaten.  His life, and those of his family, were threatened and he was coerced to give false testimony against BCSW, saying that it had spurred the factory workers to uprise and stop working.  Mr. Islam escaped and survived, but he and the other workers live in constant fear:

“Now I’m living in extreme anxiety,” he says. “I don’t even know what I should do now.  I can’t walk. I can’t even move because of the pain that I got from the beating. I can’t sleep. Nightmares of torture won’t let me sleep.”

Protests in the streets of Dhaka

In a desperate attempt to insure their survival, the garment workers are now putting their foot down and are demanding a pay increase to $72 per month (equal to $2 per day and $.35 per hour), but the government is stating that these actions and sentiments are not genuine, and workers are instead being coerced by BCWS (The factory in question has also filed criminal charges against the organization, reporting theft, vandalization and violence).

All of this has spurred weeks of violent protest in the streets of Dhaka, with workers burning furniture, looting, blocking traffic, and police have brutally reacted with batons and tear gas.  As of Thursday July 29, 2010, the government agreed to increase the minimum wage to $43 per month which will take effect on November 1, 2010, but the workers are not satisfied and violence continues to escalate.  Click HERE to see a video of the street protests.

What can you do?

The garment workers of Bangladesh need BCWS, and BCSW needs our help.  Click HERE to send a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh demanding that their NGO status be reinstated.  In addition please connect with organizations like Amnesty International and read about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights developed by the UN in 1948.

In addition, your continued support of fair trade companies like Marigold help you to stand up to labor rights abuses by voting with your dollars and demanding fair treatment and wages for workers.  By becoming an informed and engaged citizen of the world, and not turning a blind eye to the critical issue of human rights violations, you are helping to take the first step towards peace, prosperity and equality.


August 6, 2010 at 9:49 am 1 comment

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