Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network

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Press Release for Rally At GAP June 15 2013

When news of the Rana factory collapse that killed over 1200 people on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh in April 2013 spread around the world, many were outraged.  Only a few months prior, in Nov. 2012, the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh had claimed more than 100 lives.  Such accidents seemed to be regular - yet unstoppable -  fatal occurrences.

 

It was after these tragedies - one should properly term them mass homicides - that activists from Boston-area labor and social justice organizations formed the Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network (BWSN). The aim of this coalition is  to undertake solidarity actions with grassroots labor organizations in Bangladesh

 

BWSN has held a series of vigils and pickets marking the factory disasters and targeting GAP for their refusal to sign the Fire and Building Safety Accord. Recently GAP and Wal-Mart said that instead of signing on to the independent agreement that many companies such as H&M and Tommy Hilfiger have signed on to, they would create their own industry-driven initiative.  The latter is  in effect a toothless monitoring system in which the buyers such as GAP police themselves and sideline unions.  As a result, on June 15th, BWSN marched on the GAP store in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a tourist haven in Boston, to stand in solidarity with the Bangladeshi garment workers and demand:

 

*Safe and secure workplaces for all—to be verified by the representatives of the workers’ themselves. We call for the GAP and other retailers to sign on to the independent “Fire and Building Safety Accord” (not their sham substitute agreement with Wal-Mart) as a step towards creating a means for inspecting factory facilities and a structure of accountability for corporations doing business in Bangladesh.

 

*An end to employer practices of chaining factory doors, locking workers inside. Many workers have died in recent factory fires, not only because the factory conditions themselves have been fire-prone, but because after fires have broken out, they could not escape. Human lives should be put ahead of employer desires for total control.

 

*Adequate, immediate, dignified compensation for factory disaster victims and their families. Reparations should be paid to the workers of Rana and Tazreen by those corporations that have profited from production in Dhaka factories.

 

*Full respect for workers’ rights to association, organization, and public assembly. Protesting or striking workers should not be subjected to violent attacks by hired goons or police. Forming unions is a human right!

 

*A livable global minimum wage for all garment workers. The capitalist industries that are exploiting these workers are a globalized power, seeking to pit one people against another, across national lines. Our resistance to exploitation must be as international as capital is.

 

*Full disclosure from GAP management of the specific factories where its garments are being made (with this information to be updated on an ongoing basis). Only by confirming the location of GAP production can customers become informed about the working conditions that go into producing the clothes that appear on GAP shelves.

 

The action started with a march through Faneuil Hall Market place chanting in support of garment workers and calling out GAP for their use of sweatshop labor.   After the march supporters gathered in a plaza outside GAP and declared intentions to enter the store and deliver our demand letter.  Despite multiple attempts by local security forces to dissuade us from rallying and entering, the group marched into the GAP store and asked to see the manager so that we could deliver our demands.  Initially the GAP employee working in the store refused to call the manager out and instead threatened to call the police (which had already been called by local security guards). The group refused to be intimidated and instead increased our chanting inside the store making it impossible for any customers to purchase anything.  Finally, after about 10 minutes of occupying the store, the manager agreed to meet with the group. We then asked her to accept our demand letter and asked her to deliver it to her supervisors and to tell them what had happened at the store that day.  The manager accepted the letter and the group exited the store to chants of “We’ll be back.”  ( See the full letter here: http://iwwboston.org/2013/06/14/expose-the-gap-an-open-letter-to-those-who-profit-from-industrial-death-traps/)

 

After the letter delivery, the group picketed the store more, passing out fliers to passers-by.  Many of the people that we talked to understood the situation and were disgusted with the disasters. Indeed, the public reception of the demands and the need for change in the garment industry was very encouraging.  The action was a good escalation of previous actions and a great success overall.  The group refused to be bullied by security (despite threats of violence and arrest) and held fast in face of the obstinate GAP employee until the manager was summoned.   These actions will continue until GAP and other corporations decide to take responsibility for their role in creating these death traps and take meaningful action to address them.  The next step in the escalating campaign is an International Day of Action to End Deathtraps on June 29 (http://gapdeathtraps.com.   For more information about the BWSN please visit our website at: http://www.bangladeshworkerssolidaritynetwork.org/

 

Videos of the action can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hP-Cqjt16yk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=e55LhKhc_lY