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?

Bangladesh_Savar_collapse_2_sc.jpg

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: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 13 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 40 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 15 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.