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Bangladesh Sweatshop Fire

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Tuesday was an official day of mourning. Many workers demonstrated.

Some carried black flags. They blocked traffic and vowed revenge. One worker perhaps spoke for others, saying:

"Never shall we give up demands for punishment for those responsible for the tragedy."

A May 2011 audit rated Tazreen "high risk" on safety. The company operates death traps. It doesn't care if workers live or die. Profits alone matter. 

Brutal exploitation and horrific working conditions maximize them. Other global sweatshops operate the same way.  

When Tazreen's fire alarm went off, supervisors blocked workers from leaving. Doors were locked. Some victims jumped to their deaths.

Tarzeen's fire was perhaps the worst industrial one in Bangladesh's history. Local labor leader Kalpona Akter toured the facility after the blaze was contained. Well-known labels were found.

"These international Western brands have a lot of responsibility for these fires," she said. "In this factory, there was a pile of fabrics and yarn stored on the ground floor that caught fire. Workers couldn't evacuate through the stairs. What does this say about compliance?"

Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said Walmart's "culpability is enormous." It's Bangladesh's largest buyer.

"So Walmart is supporting and incentivizing an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, and brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions."

Other major retailers and global brands share guilt. They demand low prices and get them. They're mindless about working conditions, pay, safety, and employee abuse.

Bangladesh is a garment sweatshop cesspool. It ranks second to China. It produces over $18 billion in annual exports.

Around three and a half million workers are employed in about 5,000 factories. Most are young women and girls. Fundamental rights are denied.  

Besides horrific conditions and sub-poverty wages, Bangladesh fire safety is notoriously poor.

The Clean Clothes Campaign said over 500 Bangladeshi workers died in factory fires since 2006 alone. More tragedies ahead are certain.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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