Monday, May 13, 2013

A Final Number, and a non-starter

One thousand, one hundred, twenty seven people is the final toll in Bangladesh making this the sixth worst such 'accident' since the dawn of the industrial age. Of course it wasn't really an accident, it was industrial scale murder, and it's not going to be the last. It was not so much the fault of the local 'owners' that are in police custody, but fault of the people who remain faceless behind corporations that make it clear that this is the way things will be done.

Those faceless people aren't in prison, they won't miss a single seven course meal served on the finest china, and they will sleep comfortably in palaces that princes of old could not dream of. And 1127 is just the 'official' number, we'll never know the real number, perhaps as many as 400 people are still missing, still faceless, and will remain unknown to all but those they left behind. When multi-ton slabs of concrete pancake together... you see the counting isn't precise, although authorities have promised DNA testing, the time available to take samples is limited by the intense heat and limited money. You can only ask so much of the people on the ground who must do the actual work.

The sheer size of this particular tragedy has spurred possible labor reform in Bangladesh. Only 30% of the worker's signatures are required to unionize a factory in Bangladesh, but the roll has always been made available to employers. You can guess what they do with that list. Supposedly the government will no longer make those names public.

Additionally, some higher end retailers and major European companies have signed union agreements backing safety reforms. Big Box US companies have not, and don't hold your breath for that to happen. The truth is that no union can stand against unregulated corporate America. If Bangladesh reforms their textile industry, look for the Big Box companies to simply move to some other god forsaken place that they can exploit.

The $5b it would take to reform the safety practices in Bangladesh would cost ten cents per garment spread over just five years. Paying the workers a living wage would be still more billions. The thing is, spending of this nature isn't money that disappears, your spending is my wages, and back again. It would be good for the economy, but that's not what the billionaires want. They want it all, and a good economy makes it impossible for them to achieve that goal. They would have to share, and that's a non-starter.   Twitter @BruceEnberg   Facebook Prairie2 News


Ronmac said...

That collapsed sweatshop was making clothing for the Canada-based Weston group of companies. They made labels for Canada and the UK market (and elsewhere in the EU).

The Westons are also the biggest donor to the Fraser Institute, a free-market think tank lobbying group based in Vancouver, Canada. (the Koch bros also give a lot of money to this group) Current Cdn PM Steven Harper used to work for the Fraser Institute.

The top four people on staff at the Fraser Institute earned nearly $1.1 million in salary and bonuses in 2011. We can only hope for the day when these think tank outfits phase out their operations here and reopen them in places like Bangladesh where they can hire staff for pennies a day.

How much expertise does it take to do cut and paste economics, send out tweets and ride shotgun in social media hangouts?

The Weston group of companies are mostly known for their grocery store chains. Galen Weston, a third generation of this empire, has become its public face. Here he is one of his commercials: