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May 28, 2013

Bangladesh Garment Workers Walk Out on Poor Factory Conditions

Watch A Demand for Better Conditions From Bangladeshi Workers on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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Nearly a month after a garment factory collapse killed over 1,000 workers in Bangladesh, some workers are now walking off the job to protest dangerous working conditions.

In the town of Ashulia, home to scores of clothing factories, more than 20 factories have closed because of unrest.

“We’re not safe,” said one protester, “and that’s why we decided to come out.”

These factories make clothing for some of the world’s best known brands, including its largest customer, Swedish retail giant H&M. Pressure from these companies keeps workers’ wages in Bangladesh low. The minimum wage in the garment industry there is around $40 a month, the lowest in the world.

“Our main problem is salary, very, very less,” he said. “Everything we buy, expensive. So, the money, pay not enough.”

After the collapse, public pressure forced retailers to respond to allegations of poor wages and working conditions. Earlier this month, H&M joined other multinationals in signing up to a new agreement on fire and building safety. However, until the rules of the industry change, conditions for workers are not likely to get better.


Quote

“So, many competition here. Our neighbor country, India, we already lost so many orders. And those orders, they are going to India. That’s why we can’t increase our salaries, as are expected, as there are expectations,” Mohammad Islam, factory manager.

Warm up questions

1. Take a look at the tag of your shirt. Where was it made? If the country is not the United States, what do you know about this country?

2. Where is Bangladesh located?

3. What do you know about the country of Bangladesh?

4. What are labor laws?

Discussion questions

1. What do you consider to be basic standards regarding factory working conditions?

2. Do you think there should be worldwide standards for garment factories? Discuss.

3. How much more would you be willing to pay for high factory standards? $2 per article of clothing, $5, $10, $20 ?

4. Should companies be expected to invest their own money to insure that basic standards are met in their factories, or should the governments of the countries be responsible for enforcing higher standards? Why or why not?

5. Do you think the building’s owners should be punished? Why or why not?

6. Why do think some American companies have moved production sites overseas?

7. Having watched this story, what else do you want to know about how your clothing is produced?

Additional resources:

Video Blog: Are You Willing to Alter Your Fashion for Ethics?

Popular Clothing Brands React to Bangladesh Tragedy

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