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A Triangle Fire every year

Kari Lydersen reports at Working In These Times on the Wal-Mart Workers Truth Tour featuring workers from the U.S. and Bangladesh, which was previewed here.

Robert Hodge, a leader of Warehouse Workers for Justice, described a class action lawsuit for wage theft at a huge Wal-Mart warehouse outside Joliet, and Cynthia Murray of Laurel, Maryland, talked about being unable to afford health care after 11 years as a Wal-Mart associate there.

Both said they were shocked to learn of conditions in Bangladesh, where garment workers recently won a minimum wage increase to $43 a month.  Labor rights activists call that a “malnutrition wage.”

It’s country where labor organizing its violently suppressed and working conditions result in hundreds of deaths in workplace explosions and fires every year, according to a report by SweatFree Communities.  Noting the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, Kalpona Akter said, “In Bangladesh, we have one or two Triangle Fires every year.”

At the height of the campaign for a minimum wage hike last year, Akter was arrested and charged with inciting worker unrest. Some charges she faces are punishable by the death penalty or by life imprisonment, she said.

Her arrest has been protested by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.  Nineteen members of Congress, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky and then-Rep. Phil Hare,  called on Wal-Mart and five other companies doing business in Bangladesh to demand the charges be dropped.  Some charges have been filed by Bangladesh factory groups, including Nassa Group, Wal-Mart’s top supplier.

Progress Illinois has video of Akter, Hodge, and Murray.

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Category: human rights, international, labor, Wal-Mart

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