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.

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 79 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 39 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 19 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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.