Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who Cares About Bangladesh?

I’ve been neglecting my Blog because I am working on a long-delayed project: writing the last chapter of a book. But in my email I just got a press release about Bangladesh, which has a special place in my heart because long ago I researched the plight of women workers in the garment industry there. The email told me that in Bangladesh it’s still the same old story of human exploitation.

Every time I think that the campaign against sweatshops is succeeding, I learn about a story like this one. The government of Bangladesh, with the help of an American law firm, continues to crack down on the rights of workers. I’ve stopped keeping track of how many times the International Labor Organization seeks to shame Bangladesh for its repressive activities, without any success.

The workers in the country’s booming Export Processing Zones have recently taken the initiative to form a union through which they hoped to protect their rights. But the government has again intervened to crush the worker initiative.

This latest chapter in a story that goes back 20 years is told in the press release just issued by head of the International Textile Garment, and Leather Workers Federation, Neil Kearney.

In his testimony before the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards in Geneva on June 6, Kearney described the workers’ plight and said: “Garment workers in Bangladesh, mainly women, cannot be allowed to drop further into serfdom.”

Accordingly, the committee censured Bangladesh, as it has many times before. Once again, Bangladesh provides evidence that U.S. trade legislation needs to be strengthened to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of women workers in Bangladesh, who are essentially part of our labor force.

Who cares?

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