SEATTLE, Washington — Garment workers in Bangladesh are often mistreated, underpaid and overworked. In Bangladesh, 3.5 million individuals in about 4,825 corporate factories produce 80% of export revenue for Bangladesh. However, most of these workers make only 3,000 taka a month, which is far below the Bangladeshi living wage of 5,000 taka per month.
In addition to this wage disparity, garment workers in Bangladesh deal with horrific working conditions, often finishing their day at 3 a.m. after starting at 7:30 a.m. Due to climate change, Bangladesh is now facing extreme flooding. With no government disaster mitigation plans in place, many workers are also facing the loss of their homes and the ability to work.
Organizations are pushing corporate industries responsible for neglecting the human rights of garment workers in Bangladesh to provide workers a living wage, fair working conditions and unemployment assistance benefits. Three organizations spearheading this cause are Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity, the Awaj Foundation and Labor Behind the Label.
3 Organizations Helping Garment Workers in Bangladesh
- The Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity: The Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity advocates for worker rights and is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The organization provides support to garment workers while advocating internationally and domestically for workers’ rights. Three former garment workers founded the center: Kalpana Akter, Nazma Sheikh, and Babul Akhter. The center focuses not only on advocacy but also on the provision of legal services and assistance programs. They have been instrumental in advocating for worker rights since 2001, and they were one of the first groups to provide compensation to the Rana Plaza collapse victims. Their campaigns include a Know Your Rights program, a Leadership Skills Development course, an Amplify Workers’ Voice political campaign and legal aid provision.
- The Awaj Foundation: The Awaj Foundation is another grassroots organization founded by the former garment worker Nazma Akter. Akter established the foundation to provide a voice to workers. The name of the organization reflects its mission: the Bengali word “awaj” means sound or voice. They work in 22 offices and community centers across Bangladesh to provide support for over 740,000 workers in major industrial sectors. Their core values are promoting empowerment, justice and harmony. Awaj believes that several factors are critical to enabling workers to live in dignity: providing a living wage, centering the welfare of women workers, providing leadership roles for women, increasing stakeholder awareness and implementing decent working conditions throughout Bangladesh.
- Labor Behind the Label: Labor Behind the Label was founded in the U.K. in 2001 to advocate for workers’ rights worldwide and is headquartered in Bristol. Their campaigns were able to push U.K. retailers to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which ensured that Rana Plaza victims received compensation. They have also been successful in making it possible for workers in Indonesia to receive legally-owed severance payments. Labor Behind the Label advocates not only through policy avenues but also through the provision of direct aid to workers. The organization assists in the effort to help garment workers by building solidarity, holding brands and governments to account, producing research and working as public policy advocates. They have three campaigns currently: advocating for a living wage, advocating for worker’s rights regarding the shoe industry and advocating for legal worker safety policies to be implemented in Bangladesh and worldwide.
Supporting Garment Workers Now is Critical
A quarter of Bangladesh flooded over the summer due to severe monsoons caused by climate change. Workers across Bangladesh struggle to find food and survive without any remittances provided by employers. Employers in Bangladesh have yet to protect the lives of their workers, but organizations in the country are working to make a change.
– Hannah Bratton