Over one year ago the Rana Plaza sweatshop in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,100 people and injuring thousands more. Modern sweatshops are to globalization as cotton fields were to slavery in the American South. They represent one of the most brutal forms of human bondage, where life is worth only pennies while profits for retailers is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. It is one of the best examples of economic tyranny in action.
After the disaster at Rana Plaza, Western retailers were called to task for their complicity in the perpetuation of these factories of death. Corporations such as The Gap and WalMart continue to refuse signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh as it would hold them legally responsible for their part in using clothing manufacturers that put their workers in harms way.
Most of us in the West have no sense of the pain and sorrow stitched into every garment that we wear. We don’t have to see the faces of children and women forced to work 16 hour days and receive wages that barely pay for a pot of rice. But every thread that drapes American and European hangers that is from one of these places hides a story of pain, and exploitation and struggle. Every shirt, or dress, or pair of jeans has a real human being behind its production. A real human being that is no less deserving of basic safety, a living wage, fair representation, reasonable hours, and a decent life.
Corporations and mega-retailers would like us to ignore their plight. It would like us to look away from their faces. It would like us to forget that we are them, and they are us.
Instead, we honor the victims of this unnecessary tragedy. But we also honor our shared humanity that demands justice in the face utter depravity and merciless exploitation.
Kenn Orphan 2014
(Photo is of families of victims of the Rana Plaza catastrophe and is courtesy of Reuters)