For Global Capital, Workers are Expendable and Disposable Commodities

Why did thousands of terrified apparel workers in Savar, Bangladesh, file onto the upper floors of the Rana Plaza building which local authorities had condemned and from which the shops and banks on the lower levels had already been evacuated?

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It was not because they were feckless or stupid.  But the owners of the five garment factories in the building that produce apparel for export to the USA and Europe required workers, mainly young people, to work three days unpaid for any work day they missed.  April 24 fell on the last week of the month.  If workers were fired for absenteeism that week, they would receive no pay for the entire month.  And their families would go hungry for lack of the 21 cents per hour ($37 per month) pay they would bring home.

The building owner, a politically well-connected local leader of the ruling Awami League, assured the factory owners that the visibly flawed and illegally constructed structure was safe.  The factory owners, desperate to maintain the lowest  possible production costs to keep their contracts from the best-known Western clothing brands, ordered the workers to go to work.  The building collapsed.  Of the 2500 workers in the five factories, at least 300 are dead, 2000 injured, and many more still dead and dying under the rubble. 

There are many to blame for this mass industrial manslaughter.  These include corrupt local politicians, greedy and unscrupulous national businessmen, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association that fights against unionization and against any enforcement of labor laws or safety regulations.

But the intellectual instigator of the crime is the global garment industry itself -- profitable global  corporations that own brands  like Benetton, Children’s Place and Calvin Klein, massive retailers like Wal-Mart, C&A and Tchibo.   Like other global industries in electronics, shoes and toys, the garment/apparel industry profits heavily from buying at low prices based on exploited and poorly paid factory workers in developing countries and selling at higher prices to customers in Western shopping malls.  Far up the feeding chain, these global corporations try to insulate themselves from the widespread misery of the workers that actually produce their goods through a vast supply chain of manufacturers and sub-contractors.  If young workers work excessive hours at monotonous tasks, die from fires, explosions, or building collapses, or merely are swallowed alive and spit out from the bowels of the global capitalist system, these corporations do not acknowledge their responsibility and culpability.

Read the details of this latest man-made disaster in the articles posted on DSA’s labor blog Talking Union.  Respond to the appeals for the expression of solidarity to the struggling workers of Bangladesh, of China, and of the USA.  Make the connections.  We all live together in one small corner of the universe.   The young women trapped in the rubble of Rana Plaza are our sisters and daughters.  If we do not react, we are the ones who are ultimately culpable.

Paul Garver, a member of DSA’s National Political Committee, is a retired global union organizer and co-editor of Talking Union.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.