Bangladesh workers digging through rubble

Bangladesh workers digging through rubble

There does exist the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and there does exist the International Labor Organization (ILO) – so for big business in Europe and America to pay pennies on the dollar for products produced in Bangladesh that sell for billions of dollars without securing a safe work environment for those workers earning only 38.00 USD per month is nothing less than a crime. It’s a shame. The Bangladesh workers were pressured to work despite warnings of danger. Even the Pope condemned it as “slave labor”.

The irony is that in the aftermath – the global outcry to the building collapse on April 24th that killed 550 people – Bangladesh urged the European Union not to take tough measures on an industry that employs roughly four million workers. Being the second-largest apparel exporter next to China, they say such measures would cripple the Bangladesh economy. What would be the alternative to ensure the safety of workers remains to be seen.

New York garment factory fire 1911

New York garment factory fire 1911

Another garment industry tragedy occurred 102 years ago in Manhattan, New York. It was March 25, 1911 when a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory – a fire that became the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of that city and the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. A common practice at the time, the managers had locked the doors to the exits and stairwells to prevent stealing and unauthorized breaks. As a result, many of the workers who could not escape the flames jumped from as high as the 10th floor to the streets below. The toll: 146 dead; 71 injured.

History just seems to repeat itself even after all these years as big business continues to place profit over safety and well-being. Why haven’t – in the name of the United Nations – the ILGWU and the ILU impacted and protected Bangladesh citizens on the most basic premise of humanity, from the ravishes, the demands of big business upon such a frail infrastructure?

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand”  www.larrybuford.com   [email protected]  (213) 220-8101