May Day 2016: Bangladeshi garment workers celebrate by setting fire to the Zara garment factory. Literally thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh have died in death trap garment factories run by multinational clothing companies.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1129 workers and injured over 2000. Today, survivors, fellow workers, and families protested, calling on garment manufacturers to honor the memory of those who were killed. - CM
Today in labor history, August 22, 2010: Police open fire and attack with tear gas 2,000 garment workers who block a highway in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for three hours to demand that they be paid overdue wages. In 2010, the garment industry in Bangladesh raked in $12 billion, but the minimum wage for garment workers – working 10 to 16 hours a day under hazardous conditions, six days a week – was $24 a month.
Runaways to runway: how ethical fashion improves the lives of Africa’s poor
The muddy streets of Kenya’s crowded Korogocho slums are a far cry from the fashion boutiques of Paris, Milan, New York or London.
But beneath a tin roof, workers from some of the country’s poorest communities sew buttons and stitch cloth for top international designers, part of a not-for-profit “ethical fashion” project.
“Before Ethical Fashion, I couldn’t educate my children,” said Lucy, sitting in a circle of women, needles in hand as they deftly sew white seed beads to the surface of smooth, chocolate-coloured leather.
“But now I can educate them, and provide for them anything they need,” said the mother of four, in her late 30s.
The Girl Effect was born amid an urgent PR crisis two decades ago, when Vietnamese Nike workers spoke to labor advocates and journalists about being routinely beaten by their managers; dozens of other news stories exposed negative working conditions in overseas factories making products for Nike. Under public pressure to take responsibility for its supply chain, then-CEO Phil Knight admitted that the company had become “synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse.” He promised to not only transform Nike’s supply chain but to lead the entire apparel industry into a new era of corporate social responsibility. Soon after, Nike employed two women, Maria Eitel and Hannah Jones, to overhaul the company’s image. Both had extensive media experience; Eitel had served as a media adviser to President George H.W. Bush.
The for-profit company has invested millions in the Nike Foundation and its Girl Effect campaign, led by Eitel, who is president and CEO of the Nike Foundation. The campaign had early seed funding from the NoVo Foundation as well as support from the United Nations Foundation and the United Kingdom. (The Girl Effect was spun off into its own organization in 2015, with Eitel as its chairwoman.) Today Nike’s profits, brand value, and corporate responsibility image are all in top-form.
But what effect has the Girl Effect had on Nike’s own supply chain? Of the estimated million-plus workers who cut, stitch, sew, glue, label, and package shoes, sports fashion, and collegiate apparel for Nike contractors (including for Nike brands Converse and Hurley), almost a third work in Vietnam, the single largest host to Nike manufacturing in the world. With at least 75 contracted factories there, Nike is a major driver of employment in the country. About 80 percent of workers in Nike’s Vietnam factories are women and girls; some may be as young as 16, the minimum age for certain factory work in Nike’s Code of Conduct. Many migrate from poor rural areas in the central and northern provinces of the country to industrial parks in the south. According to Nike, they are often “the first women in their family to work in the formal economy.”
Over four weeks in January, I interviewed 18 women, 23 to 55 years old, who currently or recently produced, labeled, and packaged Nike shoes and apparel at five different factories within 30 miles of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. These plants are listed on Nike’s site as employing more than 61,000 female line workers, and Nike sends inspectors to the sites to monitor working conditions and compliance with the company’s Code of Conduct. Nike wouldn’t put me in touch with employees of its contract factories, so I contacted an underground workers’ rights organization and an independent researcher who specializes in women’s issues. The women they introduced me to live in squalid conditions near the factories, where they mostly share single rooms with two to five family members. Joined by translators, I visited their homes, met some of their daughters and families, listened to their stories, and collected documents including company policies and pay slips.
Although they may be unfamiliar with Nike’s global campaign, the goal of the women I spoke with sounds a lot like the Girl Effect—to raise themselves and their families out of poverty. Each of the 18 women, however, reported pay so low they could not even meet the basic needs of their families, let alone save money or contribute to their communities. (Four had been laid off less than three months before we met, after their factory building burnt down; they spoke only about their wages and child care, cautious of giving critiques that might jeopardize their chances of getting hired back.) They told me that they would need to earn between three to four times their current salaries to offer their families a basic level of economic security. The average monthly wage for manufacturing in Vietnam was $200 in 2015. Their stories highlighted something the Girl Effect campaign is silent about: the importance of a living wage.
I also found evidence that Nike’s contract factories breach basic Girl Effect tenets of freedom from exploitation and harassment, security, safety, and Nike’s own Code of Conduct, put in place to prohibit, among other things, harassment, abuse, and nonconsensual overtime. Women who worked in different factories told remarkably similar stories of being subjected to arbitrary punishments—such as financial penalties and threats of dismissal for making manufacturing mistakes, not working quickly enough, or coming in late, along with intimidation and ongoing humiliation by managers.
Finally, although the Girl Effect champions the importance of women protecting and empowering their own children, the women in Vietnam explained to me why their low wages make it impossible for them to ensure their children’s safety. The 10 mothers with young children whom I spoke with either send their children to unlicensed child care services they consider underqualified or dangerous or they leave them with family in home villages they are able to visit only once or twice a year.
Nike’s talk of empowerment notwithstanding, these women feel helpless in the face of these conditions. “We have voices,” a 32-year-old pregnant worker, who receives a small hazardous work bonus for her work in the gluing section and fears the effects of chemicals on her unborn baby, told me. “But we can’t really speak.”
when you say “women don’t want dangerous and low-paying jobs, like, historically” I hear two things, the first of which is: “I have never heard of, for instance, the garment industry, like I assume that all my clothes just kind of grow and emerge fully formed from pods that are farmed by, like, fairies I guess?” and the second of which is “I haven’t thought critically at all about the fact that there’s no reason for most of those dangerous and low-paying jobs to be dangerous and low-paying at all except for like, a general disregard for human life” like if you wanna talk about coal mining specifically I can go all day about historical shit but when you get right down to it frankly coal mining should not even be a thing for ANYONE anymore because we need to have stopped relying on coal for anything about 40 years ago!!!!!!!!! come on
Pura Belpré (1899-1982) was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. She was also a writer, collector of folktales, and puppeteer.
Belpré was born in Cidra, Puerto Rico. There is some dispute as to the date of her birth which has been given as February 2, 1899, December 2, 1901 and February 2, 1903. She graduated from Central High School in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1919 and enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. Soon thereafter, in 1920, she interrupted her studies in order to attend her sister Elisa’s wedding in New York City, where, except for brief interludes, she remained for the rest of her life.
Belpré’s career in the New York Public Library commenced in 1921, and she pioneered the library’s outreach within the Puerto Rican community. However, like many of the Puerto Rican women who migrated to New York in the twentieth century, Belpré’s first job was in the garment industry. Her Spanish language, community and literary skills soon earned her a position as Hispanic Assistant in a branch of the public library at 135th Street in Harlem, having been recruited and mentored by Ernestine Rose, head of the Harlem library. Belpré became the first Puerto Rican to be hired by the New York Public Library (NYPL).
In 1925 she began her formal studies in the Library School of the New York Public Library. In 1929, due to the increasing numbers of Puerto Ricans settling in southwest Harlem, Belpré was transferred to a branch of the NYPL at 115th Street. She quickly became an active advocate for the Spanish-speaking community by instituting bilingual story hours, buying Spanish language books, and implementing programs based on traditional holidays like the celebration of Three Kings Day. In her outreach efforts, she attended meetings of civic organizations such as the Porto Rican Brotherhood of America and La Liga Puertorriqueña e Hispana. Through Belpré’s work, the 115th Street branch became an important cultural center for the Latino residents of New York, even hosting important Latin American figures such as the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Belpré continued these efforts at the 110th street (or Aguilar) branch.
Just putting it out there that you can’t “support women” in any meaningful way while making fun of the terms that marginalized women create to describe their experiences of oppression, blaming marginalized women for violent acts that men choose to commit, talking over marginalized women with made up statistics/stereotypes/the film “Taken” starring Liam Neeson/wild assumptions about their lives and workplaces, advocating for laws that make it harder for marginalized women to earn an income safely, advocating for law enforcement approaches that have resulted in marginalized women in South East Asian countries being imprisoned and used as slave labour in the garment industry, demonizing peer-led organizations created by marginalized women to advocate for their own interests or generally talking over marginalized women in a condescending, insulting manner.
Sex workers are a marginalized group that is VERY predominantly female, with most of the non-women being trans people and gay men. You can’t be anything approaching “pro women” while fighting AGAINST our interests.
Los Angeles is a region better known for Hollywood, but it actually has more manufacturing jobs than any other metro area in the U.S. Of the more than half-million manufacturing jobs in the region, about 50,000 of them are in the garment industry.
Fashion is a big part of LA’s identity, and you feel it in the Fashion District downtown. It has changed a lot since the late 1980s, when plain beige towers called California Mart bustled with all things related to the garment industry.
Brian Weitman grew up around the garment industry and remembers Cal Mart’s heyday.
“It was first-generation migrant workers working their butts off all day long on a sewing machine or cutting tables, and these buildings were just humming. And there were racks rolling in and out all day long. These freight elevators, you’d have to wait to just load your garments in them to get them into a truck to get them to ship out to a store,” Weitman says. “But everyone wanted to be around here because this was the hub. This was the only showroom center in LA.”
The Getty Images Instagram Grant, run in collaboration with Instagram, supports visual artists using #Instagram to tell important stories about communities underrepresented by mainstream media.
Ismail Ferdous, a Bangladeshi documentary photographer using #Instagram to cover social humanitarian issues, received a grant in 2015 for his project “After Rana Plaza.”
“This project came from a very personal place, as I live among those affected by the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Seeing the workers every day, coming and going, is a constant reminder of the collapse and its effects still linger more than two years later.” -@ismailferdous
📷: Rahela Begum lost her son at the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse: "Whenever I go in front of Rana Plaza, I feel like my son will come back suddenly. My elder son told me to change our house but I denied him. I told him this house is attached with my son’s memories and I will not leave this place at any cost."
The Getty Images Instagram Grant is accepting applications until April 12. Learn more and apply at gtty.im/grants
Garment factory workers staged a fashion event called ‘Beautifull Clothes, Ugly Reality’ at the Worker’s Information Center in Phnom Penh, denouncing the poor working conditions and the current oppression they currently face in Cambodia. The participants held a fashion show, attended by some 200 people, wearing clothes from brands like Adidas, H&M and others which are being manufactured here. They also threaded the catwalk on songs by 'The Messengers’, a vocal group of former garment workers, while carrying signs saying 'We need rice, not bullets’, 'Drop the ban on public gathering now’ or 'We need a decent condition and dignity.
Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry is virtually the only way out of poverty and illiteracy for the nation’s women and girls. In 2011, about 12% of Bangladesh women from ages 15 to 30 worked in the industry. For many women, the work is worth the risk of dangerous work conditions – including sacrificing an education. Researchers found that before the garment industry, 27% more young girls were attending school.
Textile union workers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti announce their demands, and invite those of all the popular classes to join them in a May Day march!
TEXTILE UNIONS’ PLATFORM
Workers of all factories, laborers, Labor Organizations, popular organizations, students, street vendors, progressives and all those who are struggling to make a living: come and join the March on May Day 2015 to demand:
A minimum wage of at least 500 gourdes and all arrears retroactive to October 2014;
A negotiated agreement between the union and the state on social benefits of food, transportation and housing, etc;
A change to the 2009 law on wages allowing the unions to negotiate the piece rate, quotas and price;
Build modern cafeterias so workers don’t have to eat lunch alongside garbage and mud;
Comprehensive reforms at ONA and OFATMA for better services;
Agrarian reforms so small peasants could work in security and with technical support;
A New Labor Code and Rural Code that protect workers’ rights and the environment;
The re-instatement of all Executive Board members of the SYNOTHAG Union at GMC.
We will begin rallying at 8:00 A.M. in front of the SONAPI Industrial Park, then will proceed along the road to the airport, Delmas 3, Delmas 1, Sanfil St, Montalè St and end at Champs-de-Mars. Pass the word around, pick up one another to show them what we are worth, us workers.
LET’S MAKE IT A COMBATIVE MAY DAY!!! LONG LIVE WORKERS’ STRUGGLES WORLDWIDE!!!