Posts Tagged ‘garments’

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After months of protests, New York University’s Student Labor Action Movement [ht: ke] persuaded the University to cut its merchandise licensing deal with JanSport “until and unless” the manufacturer signs onto the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

The JanSport victory caps a months-long pressure campaign to persuade the administration to incorporate the Bangladesh accord in its Labor Code of Conduct for licensees; VF remained an outlier by refusing to sign on. But NYU student Iraj Eshghi noted that it took a while to grab the administration’s attention, because “they essentially did their best to ignore us. We spent most of the semester trying to get meetings with the administration. We sent them letters, we sent them emails, they responded saying that JanSport doesn’t produce in Bangladesh.” They kept up the pressure on the main target, the parent company VF, and after they staged a sit-in, the administrators finally sat down with the protesters. Then, recalls Eshghi, they discovered the students were the last to be consulted after discussions within the administration and with outside labor activists.

Noting that “essentially they were going to ask us last,” Eshghi says the process reflected, in his view, a generally dismissive attitude toward students. “This was probably the biggest struggle within this campaign… seeing that NYU doesn’t consider us a large decision making force within the campus.”

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Up to 200,000 garment factory workers [ht: sm] participated in a third day of protests in Dhaka and surrounding areas yesterday, forcing hundreds of factories to close as the workers’ call for a better minimum wage was met with teargas and rubber bullets from police.

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Muhammad Yunus believes we can fix the problems of the garment industry in Bangladesh by establishing a minimum international wage for the industry.

This might be about 50 cents an hour, twice the level typically found in Bangladesh. This minimum wage would be an integral part of reforming the industry, which would help to prevent future tragedies. We have to make international companies understand that while the workers are physically in Bangladesh, they are contributing their labour to the businesses: they are stakeholders. Physical separation should not be grounds to ignore the wellbeing of this labour.

I’m certainly not against raising the minimum wage for Bangladeshi garment workers. But it’s at all clear to me how that would have prevented the death of more than a thousand workers in the Savar building collapse, much less justify Yunus’s claim that “We would put a special tag on each piece of clothing. The tag would say: “From the happy workers of Bangladesh, with pleasure. Workers’ well-being guaranteed.”

What if, in addition to having a higher minimum wage, Bangladeshi garment workers actually had a say in how their factories were organized, how they were built, how they bargained with domestic and foreign contractors, and so on?

Than that special tag—”From the happy workers of Bangladesh, with pleasure”—might actually have some legitimacy.

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