The (phony?) dilemma of the Bangladesh garment factory tragedy

I think our best bet is to listen to the workers. As Sumi Abedin said to me in our interview, none of the workers want to see a boycott or a reduced garment industry in Bangladesh. But the choice shouldn't be between having a dangerous and exploitative job or no job.
Bangladesh757Live

The world remains focused on the massive tragedy of the Bangladesh garment factory collapse, which is a good thing in that it helps educate us all about the working conditions for some of those making our clothing.

More than 500 have been reported killed but the toll is likely to keep climbing since hundreds remain missing.

Sumi Abedin

Sumi Abedin

Many of the stories are beginning to dwell on what is seen as a dilemma. How to best support the workers.

Some say we in the rich world need to support efforts to improve safety, wages and working conditions in these factories where many of our clothes are now made. Others say we need to be careful not to hurt this industry that gives so many of the poor jobs.

Here’s our interview with Sumi Abedin, a survivor of an earlier Bangladesh garment factory disaster, and our follow-up podcast with an organizer of a Seattle protest on the day of the factory collapes. The latest:

Guardian Bangladesh factory collapse could force rethink for garment industry

NPR Bangladesh fears exodus of western retailers

Christian Science Monitor Disney pulls out of Bangladesh: Will that make workers safer?

I think our best bet is to listen to the workers. As Sumi Abedin said to me in our interview, none of the workers want to see a boycott or a reduced garment industry in Bangladesh. But the choice shouldn’t be between having a dangerous and exploitative job or no job, she said.

Some clothing retailers like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger have signed on to international rules aimed at improving garment factory safety. It may add a few cents more to ensure people aren’t killed making our pants and shirts, or maybe even a dollar more per item if we want them to make living wages.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.