Target: President Abdul Hamid
Goal: Protect and respect garment worker’s labor rights
Garment factory owners in Bangladesh continue to threaten and intimidate their workers for organizing labor unions. The government has done nothing to protect their workers, and doesn’t even prosecute those responsible for attacks on labor leaders. Many of these garment workers make clothes that are sold to international retailers, and the huge demand continues to tax these underpaid workers.
Human Rights Watch interviewed over 40 workers, many of whom claim that their managers threaten and intimidate workers who try to form unions, including threatening to kill them. Workers claim that some of their coworkers were beaten for their efforts to form a union, and others lost their job or were forced to resign. Factory owners would also hire local gangs to come and beat up their workers, even if it meant trespassing into the worker’s home. Female workers experience violence of a sexual nature. One worker claimed that if she or any other female worker joined a union, they would be immediately stripped of their clothes and tossed into the street. Another worker was threatened by his employer, who said he would be killed if he stepped foot into the factory. The worker returned the next day, when he was beaten and slashed with knives.
Recent changes to the law have allowed garment workers to form unions. Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which killed more than a thousand garment workers, the government has tried to appease both the victims and other garment workers by allowing them to unionize. However, a union can only be formed if 30% of the workers in a factory agree to form one, allowing employers to intimidate and threaten their employees.
There are laws that protect workers who wish to form a union, including a ban on dismissing an employee because they wish to join a union. But because these laws are not enforced by the government, threats continue to plague these workers. You can help their plight by demanding the president of Bangladesh to acknowledge worker’s labor rights and protect them from greedy and abusive factory owners.
Dear President Abdul Hamid,
I am appalled by the conditions garment workers in your country are facing. Many of these employees wish to form unions so they can earn better wages and enjoy improved working conditions, but they are halted from doing so because of threats from their employers. The factory owners threaten to dismiss and even kill workers who try to form a union, despite it being a worker’s right to unionize. The law prohibits owners from doing any of this, and yet your government does nothing to enforce it.
I am writing this letter to demand that you acknowledge and respect worker’s labor rights. International retailers, along with the workers themselves are pressuring the government to do the job they are failing to do. As the government, it is your job to protect your people, and that includes the garment workers.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Derek Blackadder via flickr