LABOR: World in a Shirt and Infinity in a Stitch


“Turning and turning in the widening gyre” is an appropriate last chapter for a book that is an amazing picture of the wheels of global capitalism as it lifts some and crushes others over centuries, continuously depleting “the reservoirs of human energy” and “the limited treasures of a wasting planet”. Continue reading “LABOR: World in a Shirt and Infinity in a Stitch”

Reflections on “Unprecedented Changes” in the Garments Sector of Bangladesh

Garments workers
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights’ report Unprecedented Changes.

by Farida Khan for

The Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse has made many Western consumers shudder at the thought of their complicity with sub-human conditions in the Third World factories where their clothes are sewn. While consumers are often careful to avoid purchasing soccer balls sewn by child labor Continue reading “Reflections on “Unprecedented Changes” in the Garments Sector of Bangladesh”

Unprecedented Changes in the Garments Sector of Bangladesh

by Farhad Mahmud for

Soon after the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse, there were two types of reaction from the buyers who were sourcing garments from Bangladesh.  There was one group who felt they need to move away from sourcing from Bangladesh.  Another group felt somewhat responsible  Continue reading “Unprecedented Changes in the Garments Sector of Bangladesh”

TUBA STRIKE: What a country have we become!

TUBA STRIKE: What a country have we become!
by Faruk Wasif for Prothom Alo, translated by Irfan Chowdhury for
Kidnappers demand ransom after taking innocents hostage. Prisoners are exchanged during wars. But what sort of ransom is being sought for the Tuba Group, where sixteen hundred workers are made captive? If their co-owner, the arrested Delwar Hossain, is not released, the workers will not be paid. Nowhere in the company law is it mentioned that other business-partners will not be able to withdraw money from the accounts in the absence of a partner. The Tuba Group has made this case and Delwar Hossain’s bail has been granted.

Just as it is a crime to use hapless humans as shields in wars, the Tuba group has committed a crime by using hungry and wage-depraved workers. The Labour Minister has legitimised this use. The Shamim Osman(s) rely on the support of the party in power, and garment factory owners rely on the government support. What a dreadful situation.

Continue reading “TUBA STRIKE: What a country have we become!”

Do they know it’s Eid Mobarak?

Shilpi, a worker of the Toba Group broke down while giving an interview to the media
Shilpi, a worker of the Toba Group broke down while giving an interview to the media

জিয়া হাসান: “আজকে যদি এই রাষ্ট্রে একটা মানবিক এবং নৈতিক সরকার থাকতো, তবে তার দায়িত্ব হতো, তোবা গ্রুপের সকল ডাইরেক্টরদের স্থায়ী অস্থায়ী সকল ধরনের সম্পদ এবং মেশিন বিক্রয় করে, এই গ্রুপের শ্রমিকদের বেতন পরিশোধ করা।”
Continue reading “Do they know it’s Eid Mobarak?”

‘Beauty’ for the Owner, ‘Deformity’ for the Labor

In scores of rallies and public meetings, workers raised questions about the luxurious life led by factory owners while they lived in sheer misery. `While you (factory owners) eat the chicken’s thigh, we chew its feet, its claws.”

‘Beauty’ for the Owner, ‘Deformity’ for the Labor
by Saydia Gulrukh Continue reading “‘Beauty’ for the Owner, ‘Deformity’ for the Labor”

American Apparel, gain cheap popularity, but do not act as the grand savior

“more than three million women have been guaranteed jobs through the RMG sector, thus uplifting their status within the family, the society, and the state. If anyone has demolished the wall of repression, these are the millions of women workers of Bangladesh. If anybody has tasted freedom in whatever sense, it is these women. American Apparel, gain cheap popularity with your tantalizing ad all you want, but do not act as the grand savior…”

Continue reading “American Apparel, gain cheap popularity, but do not act as the grand savior”

The state of the Bangladesh economy

by Abdullah Shibli for

Bangladesh, the country and its economy, is full of contradictions. To list a couple, while it is one of the world’s fastest growing nations, it has pockets of extreme poverty and malnutrition in urban and rural areas. Another paradox: for the last two decades it has been ruled by two political parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by two head-strong leaders, who never can seem to agree on anything, but ran the gauntlet and survived many potentially dangerous threats, including religious fundamentalism, military takeovers, and internal revolt, to its fledgling democracy. Continue reading “The state of the Bangladesh economy”

Where have all the negotiating tables gone?

By Nadine S Murshid and Awrup Sanyal for

 “Economic growth cannot sensibly be treated as an end in itself. Development has to be more concerned with enhancing lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy,” posits Amartya Sen in his book Development as Freedom (1999). Yet, Bangladesh has grown – developed at a decent rate of 6.7% over the last year – without enhancing the lives of workers, without the freedoms that Sen would like workers to enjoy, as exemplified, perhaps, by the recurrent protests by garment factory workers in Dhaka, protests that have a history of turning violent.

Continue reading “Where have all the negotiating tables gone?”

Simulacra…of the fumes

Simulacra… of the fumes

by Seema Amin for

On September 2nd the Prime Minister visited Ashulia to lay the foundation for the ‘first’ women’s dormitory in the RMG hub. In her speech to the garments workers, she spoke, among other things, about being vigilant of those who conspire against the industry.

‘The odd numbers indicate illegal streets.’

(or, avenues of illegality).

Lacking such discernment…

Singapore, somehow, I ended up on Street 19. A discreet odd numbered street address. Continue reading “Simulacra…of the fumes”

The Road to Court 21

The Road to Court 21
by Seema Amin for

“O bleating without wool! O Wound!” Lorca
Prologue: the incidental messenger
‘Now you say the income of the Adamjis, Dauds and Isphanis have increased by 40 % and the income of the s have decreased by 5 %, then you make an average and you get Per Capita Income and you say Honey and Money and Milk is Flowing in the Economy. What happens to Coliuddin, Soliuddin and Rohiuddin?‘ Continue reading “The Road to Court 21”

Dina Siddiqi: Do Bangladeshi factory workers need saving? Sisterhood in the post-sweatshop era

This 2009 article revisits the figure of the ‘third world sweatshop worker’, long iconic of the excesses of the global expansion of flexible accumulation in late twentieth-century capitalism. I am interested in how feminist activists concerned with the uneven impact of neo-liberal policies can engage in progressive political interventions without participating in the ‘culture of global moralism’ that continues to surround conventional representations of third world workers. Continue reading “Dina Siddiqi: Do Bangladeshi factory workers need saving? Sisterhood in the post-sweatshop era”

Kimberly Ann Elliott: Better work for Bangladesh

In the wake of Savar and Tazreen, debate rages in garments business about whether to deepen trade ties, or take punitive measures (“39 per cent said they would probably buy fewer products produced in Bangladesh, according to a survey by Harris Poll“).  Kimberly Ann Elliott (co-author of Can Labor Standards Improve Under Globalization?) argues for deeper ties, and better safety measures. Continue reading “Kimberly Ann Elliott: Better work for Bangladesh”

Pavel Hoq: We Need a Fundamental Shift in Mind-set

Savar Tragedy: We Need a Fundamental Shift in Mind-set
by Pavel Hoq for

The Savar building collapse last month was a catastrophic event, but it was not the first of such tragedies for us and probably won’t be the last either. Before the nation could recover from the Tazreen Fashion fire incident a few months ago in November 2012, the Rana Plaza collapse shook the country again. And by the time this piece was written, there were already more such news in the media including a Sea-Truck sinking with 100 on board on May 5th, leaving 8 dead and a garments factory fire in Mirpur, Dhaka on May 8th that killed 8 more people. Continue reading “Pavel Hoq: We Need a Fundamental Shift in Mind-set”

Farhad Mahmud: Bangladeshi garments should not play poverty to outsiders

Bangladeshi garments should not play poverty to outsiders
by Farhad Mahmud

A colleague said: “If we force the issue (double the minimum wage) and it is firmly imposed, there is a danger that costs will increase too rapidly and business will be lost. The strategy is to shame the foreign buyers to reduce their profits (by paying a higher price for the products to support higher wages).  Will it work?”

My short answer to your question will be it won’t. This is from my experience as a businessman who had been involved in a similar trade for many years. Continue reading “Farhad Mahmud: Bangladeshi garments should not play poverty to outsiders”

Michael Guerriero: Ten Cents

It’s often reported that the recession turned Americans into frugal shoppers. Well, here’s a bargain: spending about ten cents more on a piece of clothing produced in Bangladesh could prevent disasters like the horrific collapse, last month, of the Rana Plaza factory, which killed over a thousand people, the deadliest accident in history of the garment industry. Continue reading “Michael Guerriero: Ten Cents”

Canada’s Tristan Style withdraws anti-Bangladesh ad after protests

Canada’s Tristan Style has now withdrawn the anti-Bangladesh ad and posted an apology on their public Facebook page. Below is the apology they posted and the comments on the public Facebook page. Please add your comments as well.

Tristan: We recently posted a sign in one of our stores and want to apologize for the miscommunication of our message, which was removed the minute we realized the idea behind it may have been misinterpreted by some. The true intent of our message was to promote awareness of the importance of ethical manufacturing practices, something we remain committed to. Our thoughts are with the families suffering for their losses in Bangladesh. Continue reading “Canada’s Tristan Style withdraws anti-Bangladesh ad after protests”

Pramila Das: Even when they mourn, they mourn from the margin

Her husband, Shomlal Das quietly preparing for her cremation. They forgot to bring sindhoor. She is a married dead. She must wear sindhoor, someone from the small crowd whispered. They opened the bodybag. Part of her face was smashed, there was barely any hairline. Shomlal sprinkled sindhoor on her face... He pauses and sighs, “the government officer just treat every dead as muslim.”
Continue reading “Pramila Das: Even when they mourn, they mourn from the margin”

Omar Faruk Babu Remembered

Omar Faruk Babu Remembered (d. May 2013)

1. Tibra Ali for

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
— T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Louis Ferdinand Celine one said that the good ones should have some kind of marking to set them apart from the rest of humanity. One of those good ones was Babu. Continue reading “Omar Faruk Babu Remembered”

Capitalism Exposed, Part 1: Politics-Administration-Media evil nexus

Captalism Exposed, Savar Tragedy Part 1 (Politics-Administration-Media evil nexus)
by Zia Hassan, Translated from Bengali by Adnan R Amin for AlalODulal.Org
The reason capitalism succeeds worldwide is because it promotes human greed. It sees greed as an essential force and accepts it as internal and core. Continue reading “Capitalism Exposed, Part 1: Politics-Administration-Media evil nexus”

Khushi Kabir: They Are Our S/Heroes

I spent the last 2 days in Savar. A concerted effort of architects, civil engineers, disaster trained workers from Red Cross & other agencies, trained community groups, fire fighters, armed forces, all have collectively formed a task force, and are slowly using heavy equipment to surely though slowly cut the top (maps have been made of the structure etc.) and lift people, dead and alive, as well as other equipment to remove debris. The process is slow, but the time for the public action, which was amazing,THEY ARE OUR S/HEROES, the only ones who went inside, is now no more feasible. Continue reading “Khushi Kabir: They Are Our S/Heroes”

Rana Plaza built on land grabbed from Rabindranath Sarkar

“Journalist brother. You are a Hindu, I am a Hindu. Please don’t do any more harm to me. You know, how Hindus have to live in this country. Rana Plaza collapsed on top of my house and office. Four of my staff and three of my house help died. After the accident, goods were looted from my house. I can’t even go into my own house.” Continue reading “Rana Plaza built on land grabbed from Rabindranath Sarkar”

Shameema Binte Rahman: An existentialist photograph and the reality of non-existence

An existentialist photograph and the reality of non-existence
by Shameema Binte Rahman, Translated from Bengali for by Tibra Ali

A photograph. The whole body is buried under debris. Only one part is sticking out: an ID card with its lace wrapped around the wrist and the fingers. Continue reading “Shameema Binte Rahman: An existentialist photograph and the reality of non-existence”

Shabnam Nadiya: To BGMEA, How To Maintain Bangladesh’s Shining Image Abroad in Five Easy Steps

To BGMEA: How To Maintain Bangladesh’s Shining Image Abroad in Five Easy Steps
Guest Post by Shabnam Nadiya

1. Stop thinking that ‘compliance’ is a word to keep international buyers happy and begin to understand that it has to do with the safety of people. People like you and me. People whose labor creates that shining Bangladesh in the first place. People whose actual labor builds your fortunes. Continue reading “Shabnam Nadiya: To BGMEA, How To Maintain Bangladesh’s Shining Image Abroad in Five Easy Steps”

Fariha Sarawat: Buyers are also culpable

Who Will Bell the Cat?
Guest Post by Fariha Sarawat

Much has been said about who’s to blame for the story state of garments workers’ rights, safety and working conditions in Bangladesh.

Some people, including some local manufacturers, would like us to buy in to the narrative of exploitative buyers whose predatory negotiations force our manufacturers to cut costs (because they are afraid they would lose the order otherwise to China or others) in order to stay competitive and that leaves the latter with little (once costs of inputs, overheads etc have been deducted) to pay to the workers. Continue reading “Fariha Sarawat: Buyers are also culpable”

Vijay Prashad: The Terror of Capitalism

Made in Bangladesh: The Terror of Capitalism

“In the Atlantic world, meanwhile, self-absorption over the wars on terror and on the downturn in the economy prevent any genuine introspection over the mode of life that relies upon debt-fueled consumerism at the expense of workers in Dhaka. Those who died in the Rana building are victims not only of the malfeasance of the sub-contractors, but also of twenty-first century globalisation.”

Continue reading “Vijay Prashad: The Terror of Capitalism”

The Baby in the Building

Picture one of those nice sleek ads that we saw last month for Independence day. Or two weeks ago for Pahela Boishakh. Then keep the audio the same, but replace the visuals with the images from Savar. Why change the visuals but keep the audio, you may ask? Easy answer, I am a big coward. I can look at a dead body and maybe imagine it is still alive, if not for the veneer of white dust accumulated on the face and limbs. But the cries for help? Those whom we have doomed to die? I can’t handle that. So, just the video please.

Continue reading “The Baby in the Building”

ব্র্যাক ব্যাংক বন্ধ থাকে, গার্মেন্টস কেন বন্ধ থাকেনা? একটা ফাইভ পকেট জিন্সের প্রফিট এর আলোকে গারমেন্টস এর লাভ ও লোভ এর বর্ণনা

মৃত্যুর মিছিলে আর একটি ছবি, যে কারো সন্তান বা কারো মা

সাভারের রানা প্লাজার মর্মান্তিক দুর্ঘটনার আগের দিন, ওই ভবনে ফাটল দেখা দেয়। ওই ফাটল দেখা দেয়ার পরের দিন, ব্র্যাক ব্যাঙ্ক বন্ধ ছিল কিন্ত ওই ভবনের সকল গার্মেন্টস কারখানা খোলা হয় । ব্র্যাক ব্যাঙ্ক যে খুব মানব দরদী এবং কল্যাণমুখী প্রতিষ্ঠান তাও না। গার্মেন্টস শিল্প গুলোর মতই ব্র্যাক ব্যাঙ্ক একটি উপার্জনমুখী প্রতিষ্ঠান। তাহলে, দেখা প্রয়োজন ব্র্যাক ব্যাঙ্ক কেন বন্ধ ছিল এবং গার্মেন্টস গুলো কেন খোলা হইছে ? Continue reading “ব্র্যাক ব্যাংক বন্ধ থাকে, গার্মেন্টস কেন বন্ধ থাকেনা? একটা ফাইভ পকেট জিন্সের প্রফিট এর আলোকে গারমেন্টস এর লাভ ও লোভ এর বর্ণনা”

Faruk Wasif: Now will you have time? Now will you finally listen?

Now will you have time? Now will you finally listen?

by Faruk Wasif, Translated from Bengali for by Tibra Ali

We are not slave-owners, we are a manager country of slavery. Our labour force is slave labour, our farmers are debt slaves and serfs. The big capitals exploit the labour in their own countries while they plunder the labour from countries like ours. Our wealth, natural resources and manpower; Our bodies, language and history, all of it is subservient to small capitals working for big capitals. This international family of big and little brothers is called imperialism.

Continue reading “Faruk Wasif: Now will you have time? Now will you finally listen?”

Dhrubo Bornon: Garments & Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai

Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai: A solution to worker’s problem
Guest Post by Dhrubo Bornon (

It happened again. Due to the negligence of factory owners, more than 100 people died. And we are asking, how many times more! Didn’t we say last time that it will happen again and again until government protects the workers? Yes, that is how we think, probably everyone, who are neither the ruthless owners nor their government patrons. We think that the solution is simple. Continue reading “Dhrubo Bornon: Garments & Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai”

Will we continue to be silent?

Will we continue to be silent?

by Nadine S. Murshid

One girl asked him [the factory manager], “Mr. Bonstein, why is there no water in the buckets? In case of a fire, there would be nothing with which to fight it,” He became enraged at our group of price committee members, and with inhuman anger replied: “If you’ll burn, there’ll be something to put   out the fire.” (Stein, 1977) Continue reading “Will we continue to be silent?”

Savar: Tragedy and sin, common man steps in, but death toll spirals upward, “Ar koto lash dekhbo ey shadhin Bangla’e?”

Doctors Cafe: I saw a Medical student shouting for a trolley while carrying a wounded woman in his lap. We are not butchers, listen o countrymen. Today the way the Enam Medical College students were working tirelessly to save people is beyond comparison. Salute to you all! You proved today that Doctors are not butchers or dacoits.
Continue reading “Savar: Tragedy and sin, common man steps in, but death toll spirals upward, “Ar koto lash dekhbo ey shadhin Bangla’e?””

Anu Muhammad: While Our Eyes Are Elsewhere

While Our Eyes Are Elsewhere
by Anu Muhammad, Translated by Tibra Ali for

Despite putting people from all walks of life at risk, the recent violence and uncertainty in our country seem to have inconvenienced the local and foreign plunderers and invaders very little. On the contrary, in many instances because of the shifted attention it has even helped them. For many this time of uncertainty has been a blessing!

Continue reading “Anu Muhammad: While Our Eyes Are Elsewhere”

Letter from an unborn child

by Saydia Gulrukh

Ultrasonic images of pregnant Mimi (pseudonym) taken less than a fortnight before fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions on November 24, 2012 burning to death 112 workers, according to the government and the BGMEA; the actual death toll, according to family members of missing workers, labour organisations and activists, is much higher.

Honourable prime minister,
I AM an unborn citizen of Bangladesh. I was killed before I was born. My mother was twenty-two weeks and three days pregnant with me when fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions in Nischintapur.

I was killed before I was born. Continue reading “Letter from an unborn child”

Maha Mirza: Liar Liar, Factories on Fire

Liar, liar, factories on fire
by Maha Mirza

NOWADAYS the global media seems to be euphoric about us. Every now and then, The Economist heaps lavish praise for our apparently astonishing economic happenings. Lately, JP Morgan added Bangladesh in its catalogue of ‘Frontier Five’. The McKinsey Report spotted Bangladesh as the next hotspot for global apparel bazaar. After finished havocking the Greek economy, Goldman Sachs kindly positioned us in its next-eleven brochure. And the World Bank confirmed our eligibility for a sharp 8 per cent growth. Continue reading “Maha Mirza: Liar Liar, Factories on Fire”

Tazreen: Rokeya Bahini says BGMEA protects killers

Dear journalist brothers and sisters,

Many garment workers died on the evening of November 24th when fire broke out in Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia’s Nischintapur. The exact death toll is still unknown. According to the government, 112 workers had died but many family members were unable to identify their beloved ones as the flesh had burnt away leaving behind only charred bones and skeletons. Fifty three unidentified bodies have been buried in Jurain graveyard. But several investigative reports have concluded that the death toll is higher. Some of us have conducted preliminary research in Nischintapur’s Buripara at our own initiative, and, we too, have been forced to reach the same conclusion. The government and the BGMEA should immediately have launched a serious drive to ascertain the exact number of those who have died, but instead they displayed a callous indifference which amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence. Continue reading “Tazreen: Rokeya Bahini says BGMEA protects killers”

Tazreen: American Tariffs, Bangladeshi Deaths

New York Times/December 11, 2012

American Tariffs, Bangladeshi Deaths

By SANCHITA B. SAXENA/ Berkeley, Calif.

THE fire that killed 112 workers at a garment factory in the suburbs of Bangladesh’s capital last month was a stark reminder of the human costs of producing and consuming cheap clothes. While American officials have condemned poor safety conditions at the factory and have urged the Bangladeshi government to raise wages and improve working conditions, the United States can do much more: It should bring down high tariffs on imports from Bangladesh and other Asian countries, which put pressure on contractors there to scrimp on labor standards in order to stay competitive. Continue reading “Tazreen: American Tariffs, Bangladeshi Deaths”

Tazreen: New York Times front page, again

Bangladesh is on the front page of the New York Times for the third time this year. All three stories have been on the garments industry. The previous two talked of opportunities and warned of dangers and exploitation in the industry. The latest one is, of course, after the fire. Reporting by Jim Yardley and Julfikar Ali Manik, photographs by Andrew Biraj and Khaled Hasan.

Continue reading “Tazreen: New York Times front page, again”

Will “Made in Bangladesh” become a scarlet letter?

Bangladesh is on front page of NEW YORK TIMES again, twice this month, as part of the series MADE IN BANGLADESH. We at Alal o Dulal first sounded the alarm over Aminul Islam’s murder in April, and dubbed this the “coming storm” in July. Of course, nobody listened. Certainly not our shonamdhonnyo government that dismisses all critiques as “enemies of the nation.” Keep playing that deaf drumbeat.

Fighting for Bangladesh Labor, and Ending Up in Pauper’s Grave

Workers on their way to work in Ashulia, Bangladesh, where a labor organizer was killed.
Continue reading “Will “Made in Bangladesh” become a scarlet letter?”