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Bangladesh Garment Workers & the Fight for Social Security

Bangladeshi garment protest.

Are Americans willing to go as far to fight austerity?

There is predictable bad news on Social Security, that the Democrats are gonna try to shove cuts down our throats despite opinion polls showing overwhelming opposition to them, and overwhelming support for adjusting the income cap (can you believe it, there’s a damn regressive taxation income cap!) if we need more revenue. But don’t forget the (related!) good news. Bangladeshi garment workers worked hard after the preventable fire/catastrophe that killed 1100 last April, worked angry, got in the streets and closed them down, shut down factories, and so they have achieved, so far, a 50-80% wage increase:

Bangladesh’s garment factory owners are pencilling in a minimum wage increase of about 50 to 80 percent and will ask retailers to pay more to defray the cost, as the government tries to end a wave of strikes that hit nearly a fifth of workshops last month.

See, no cuts for those who get in the streets and make life impossible for the owners. The pay of Bangladeshi garment workers will go from $38 up to $57 to $68 a month — a month! — so they continue to protest, hard, in order to achieve their stated demand of $100. A good place to learn about the fight and how progress is being made is at The Real News, which interviews Michelle Chen, a labor expert who frequently contributes to MyFDL. As she would I think agree, and as I show through recent headlines, this is how you do it:

Bangladesh garment workers clash with police

Bangladesh Garment Worker Protests Shut Factories

Angry Bangladesh garment workers protest over pay, factories shut

Factories ablaze as Bangladesh garment workers protest

It’s working:

“These workers’ rights are being discussed all over the world now and the government is nervous,” said Amirul Haque Amin, the head of the National Garment Workers Federation, an umbrella group representing 37 unions.

“There is this pressure now,” Amin said in an interview in his ramshackle office, decorated with satirical posters of harangued factory workers and fat tycoons. “This has given us the opportunity to raise our voices.”

Are we willing to learn from the Bangladeshis? Our ‘middle-class’ American scene is crashing, but we don’t yet know how to protest like third world workers, or we just don’t have the guts for it. Maybe we think we’re at a higher level of civilization than ‘those people’? Or we think that the powers that be give a damn about opinion polls taken a year before elections. They don’t: post-democracy marches on, gathering money, getting ever stronger.

But what if we fought Social Security cuts the way Bangladeshi workers are fighting for safe workplaces and decent wages?

Photo by Derek Blackadder released under a Creative Commons No Derivatives license.

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