Thursday, December 6th, 2012. New York City – At a rally today, South Asian immigrants workers from DRUM (Desis Rising Up & Moving) were joined by allies to demand that U.S. corporations take responsibility and be held accountable for their practices, and the practices of their subcontractors in Bangladesh.
On November 25th, 2012, more than 100 workers died as a result of a garment factory fire at Tazreen Fashions owned by Tuba Group. The factory produce garments for Walmart, Sears, Disney and other clothing corporations. Protesters want these corporations to join the Bangladeshi Comprehensive Fire Safety Program.
Some of the speakers were:
Sayma Khan, DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving.
Harrison Magee, former Walmart warehouse worker.
Council member Daniel Dromm.
RAP – Retail Action Project.
RWDSU – Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Mariza Silva-Farrell, ALIGN & Walmart free NYC Coalition.
Kasi Fouzia, DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving.
Sayma Khan said, “Since 2006, over 600 garment workers have died in Bangladesh as a result of factory fires. Whenever such tragedies happen our nation politicians pay lip service, but they always forget everything in a few days. Workers have never received true justice. Workers in Bangladesh need to be allowed to become more organized. There are 40,000 workers exploited by corporations in this industry. Garment factory owners and corporations have cut deals with each other and they have made sure to leave nothing for the workers. They make their profits off the dead bodies of workers.
For those of us living in the United States, it is our duty to stand with and show solidarity to those workers in their fight for worker justice. We as workers in this country have also faced discrimination and workplace violations from business owners we have work for. We work for long hours, getting paid less than minimum wage.”
Kasi Fouzia said, “No matter how you look at it, this is not an accident. This is murder. Even the Bangladeshi govertment is covering for the factory owners. We are here to demand that they be punished and held accountable. These same owners are in bed with the corporations, and they protect each other and their interests.
That is why the factory owners did not say anything against Walmart, when they claimed they have had no contracts since 2011. But the reality is, that through video and pictures we could see the running production of goods for Walmart, Disney and others. These corporations and factory owners profit off the lives of workers. I do not know if the people that are here, and the people who are working to keep Walmart out of our communities know, but Bangladesh garment workers union always support and stand in solidarity with the US anti-Walmart campaigns, and with all workers movements across the world. They are very well organized.
These corporations do not allow workers to organize inside the EPZ (Export Promotion Zones). These corporations do not sign on to the Bangladeshi Fire Safety Program. This is the reason that there is not one to monitor workers rights inside EPZ. That is why these corporations are also responsible for the murder of the workers.
It is our duty to stand in solidarity with those workers, who get paid 55 cents/hour, and to fight for their rights. We will hold those corporations responsible for the lives of those workers. We will make them accountable.”
According to their event page on Facebook, the rally was endorsed by: RAP – Retail Action project, ALIGN, VAMOS Unidos, RSDWU (Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store union), Walmart-Free NYC, UFCW Local 1500, International Labor Rights Forum, Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, National Lawyers Guild International Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, South Asia Solidarity Initiative, CSEA Local 1000, AF3IRM, Veterans for Peace – NYC Chapter 34, Daya Inc (Houston, TX), NYC Labor Against War, Damayan, AAAN – Arab American Action Network (Chicago, IL), ASAAL, Al-Awda NY, SEVA-NY, WESPAC, Pumphouse Project, SALGA-NYC, CAAAV – Organizing Asian Communities, Labor for Palestine, AAANY – Arab American Association of New York, Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan NY, Trinity Lutheran Church, ChangeLab, Justice Committee, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Adhikaar, Ugnayan, NELP – National Employment Law Project, SAALT, International Action Center, UNAC, Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party, Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network, NLG-Muslim Defense Project, Chayya CDC.
Individual endorsements: Chaumtoli Huq, Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School*), Syed Ishaq (Attorney), Diane Post (Attorney, Phoenix, AZ), Mark C. Rosenzweig (Professor of English, Jiangsu University of Science and Technology in Zhenjiang, China), Phil Wilayto (Editor, The Virginia Defender), Mike Gimbel (Retired Executive Board member of Local 375, AFSCME).
DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving is a multigenerational, membership led organization of low-wage South Asian immigrant
workers and youth in New York City.
Founded in 2000, DRUM has mobilized and built the leadership of thousands of low-income, South Asian immigrants to lead social and policy change that impacts their own lives- from immigrant rights to education reform, civil rights, and worker’s justice. Our membership of over 1,500 adults, youth, and families is multigenerational and represents the diaspora of the South Asian community – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Tibet, and Trinidad. In over a decade, we have built a unique model of South Asian undocumented workers, women, and youth led organizing for rights and justice from the local to the global.
Democracy Now: “The Bangladeshi government has declared a period of national mourning for more than 120 garment workers who died in a fire at a factory that supplied U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart, among others. Joining us from Bangladesh is labor activist Kalpona Akter, who has visited the factory and took pictures of the charred clothing labels she found there — including the Wal-Mart brand, Faded Glory. She started work in garment factories when she was 12 years old. Now she campaigns for better wages, recognition of the right to organize, and higher safety standards. We are also joined by Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, which investigates working conditions in factories around the world. In comparison to the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City, Nova says, “It really is an extraordinary achievement, in an ironic sense, that the U.S. apparel industry has managed to replicate early 20th century conditions that were so brutal and cruel to workers now again here in 2012 in factories in places like Bangladesh. It is a shameful record for the U.S. apparel industry … And hopefully this horror will finally galvanize a global push for genuine reform of the labor practices of the big brands and retailers. Akter speaks directly to shoppers, saying, “Consumers can play a big role because they are the most powerful player in the supply chain.””
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