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Saturday, October 22, 2016

For many years, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society held an annual fair that sold only goods that weren’t made by slaves.

Starting in 1835, the fair was a popular weeklong event stocked with items sewed by society members and donated by anti-slavery women in the U.S. and England. The organizers, a racially mixed group of female abolitionists, raised money to fund abolitionist efforts and anti-slavery newspapers.

The fair was a high-profile effort to sway public opinion, as masterfully chronicled by Carol Faulkner’s book, Lucretia Mott’s Heresy. Faulkner describes how Mott, an abolitionist and women’s rights activist, championed the fair’s influence far beyond its commercial success:

Like her anti-slavery sisters in Boston, Mott viewed the fairs as a way of awakening moral sensibilities. She described the fairs, and the funds they raised, as ‘a means of spreading the truth, which is our only reliance and hope, and in which we have full confidence to bring in the millennial day of liberty and brotherhood.’

If there is to be justice for the tens of thousands of low-paid garment workers in Bangladesh risking their lives to make the clothing on our backs, we must launch a modern-day women’s abolitionist movement here. These workers toil in slave conditions, and they are dying.

On April 24, a factory fire outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed more than 400 people and injured at least 1,000 more. Most of the dead workers were women. The day before the fire, workers reported a large crack in the building at the Rana Plaza. A bank on the second floor told its workers to stay home, but the five garment factories in the complex remained open.

This is not the first time garment workers have died on the job in Bangladesh. The International Labor Rights Forum calculates that more than 900 workers have died in factory fires and collapsed buildings in Bangladesh since 2005. Last November, a fire killed more than 100 workers in a factory that was producing clothes for Walmart, Disney and other Western companies. Factory exits were locked and bolted, and some workers leapt to their deaths.

  • Sand_Cat

    Score another one for American retail giants!

  • FredAppell

    This is another perfect example of why we need regulation. Anyone who believes that this couldn’t happen here is delusional because it has happened here in the past. When
    people are treated like personal property, the outcome is always catastrophic.

    • sigrid28

      Thanks in large part to the GOP, it HAS happened here: in West, Texas, where regulations were entirely overlooked; in New Orleans, where Red State legislators put other needs before securing the levees that gave way in Hurricane Katrina: in New York City and New Jersey, where Super Storm Sandy put a spotlight on neglected infrastructure and an electrical grid underpinning the entire Northeast that needs urgent repair. Not only in state and local governments but on a federal basis as well as, GOP lawmakers actively strive to undermine regulatory agencies, spurred on by an attitude of anti-intellectualism that denies the value of research and training needed to keep food and drugs, utilities and workplaces—even air and water, for Pete’s sake—safe. Don’t even get me started on the topic of climate change.

      Nationwide, an unprecedented gap widens between the haves and have nots because wages are declining and benefits disappearing. It is Republicans who oppose raising the minimum wage. Thanks to GOP efforts of displace unions, the middle class is also disappearing. The families of workers who still have jobs can no longer survive without depending on the social safety net, because lawmakers have allowed prosperous employers to pay less than a living wage. These burdens fall harder on women and children and the elderly, who are also losing government supports of last resort, such as WIC and Headstart, Medicare coverage and Meals-on-Wheels, thanks to the sequester, Draconian cuts to these programs, which cannot be mitigated because of Republican obstructionism in the House and abuse of the filibuster by Republicans in the Senate.

      All that being said, the plight of these workers and their families in Bangladesh represents its own identity as a human tragedy of enormous proportions in which we all played a part. I wish seeing the seeds of their crisis in our own could help us do things to honor their work for us and their sacrifices because of it. We might do a great service to them by refusing to shop for new clothing for year and taking good care of the clothes we wear that their labor has enabled us to own in such abundance. Don’t just donate to Good Will and the Salvation Army, “shop” there. This would show solidarity for these workers in Bangladesh and at the same time let them know that by the millions we value their handiwork.

      • FredAppell

        I agree with you 100%. The money and it’s affects on the human psyche to always want more have created a lot (not all) but still a significant amount of the problems. It’s sad that it is this way, you’d think history
        would have taught us something valuable and meaningful but really all it has done is to teach people how to double down and made human resolve that much stronger and not in a good way.

      • plc97477

        It is possible to still find american made clothes it just takes the time look. most of the ones here are local companies.

        • Inthenameofliberty

          Well said. We Americans created the current problems by insisting on buying cheap stuff. I now have dozens of Made In USA websites on my computer and I’ll keep looking. If we want to make a change, then it needs to start at the bottom. With us. It’s up to us to help others join the change and start investing in our country. Our government should not be responsible. WE need to be responsible for our failure as a nation and fix it. From the ground up. I don’t need my government to hold my hand. Now I purchase Made in the USA. And that makes me feel proud. I only wish that I had not supported the other way for so many years. I was too blind to see.

  • Disasters, such as the recent fire in Bangladesh, are caused by unscrupulous investors who put profit ahead of humanity. Sadly, this situation will continue as long as there is misery, so pervasive, that thousands of people are willing to risk their lives to feed their families. Most of the people working in sweat shops owned by Western entrepreneurs using a local front man or company are women, but it is not unusual to find children among them. The catalyst for this despicable situation is unadulterated greed and a complicit government and media that looks the other way instead of putting the thugs responsible for inhumane practices behind bars.

    • FredAppell

      I don’t think anyone could have said it better Dominick. But i’m also ashamed of myself for being part of the problem. I sit hear in front of my computer while i’m condemning other peoples heinous actions but I won’t get out and get active so
      I can make a difference. Acknowledgment of my inaction is completely meaningless. I keep telling myself that one of these days i’ll get so sick of it that
      i’ll get involved, well, one of these days has already come and gone thousands of times. I bet my attitude is more common than not. Most of us draw a line in the sand and then we keep moving the line farther away until we eventually
      become too apathetic. Then I make excuses by saying, well, I can’t change the world so I will just work on myself (that’s a crock). Sorry for the rant.

      • sigrid28

        I contend that posting on comment threads as you have done here is a form of political action as it advances the kind of discourse that can bring about change. During the 2012 election I had some sense of success when I volunteered for the Barack Obama phone bank. I was able to access names and info about polling places, etc.; phone numbers and scripts; and do so for any state. I read Nate Silver’s 538 polling data. Once Iowa seemed sure to go Blue, I then called swing states, for many days prior to the election, for the same amount I would have paid for my phone bill had I not made any calls. I left a lot of messages and voice mail, but I also discussed the election in some detail with many people who said they hadn’t had a chance to air their thoughts–who were decided but tormented by relatives who wanted them to vote otherwise–who were glad for the reminder of where their polling place was and the hours it was open, what they needed to bring to vote, etc. If you want to make calls this very weekend, sign up tomorrow at colbertbuschforcongress where Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D) and Mark Sanford (R) are tied at 46% each today for an election next week. It is always effective to call close to the election and on a weekend.

        • FredAppell

          I appreciate the kind word and your hard work to try to bring change. I hope I didn’t sound like I was on a self pitying rant.
          It’s so difficult to convey emotion and intent on these blogs.
          I find it fitting that you mentioned in your earlier post to me that one of the best ways we can acknowledge the importance of the
          garment workers in Bangladesh is to essentially boycott the
          clothing being made in these sweat shops. It’s a good strategy
          but it also leaves me conflicted. I have zero trust in the companies that exploit these poor people to suddenly see the errors of their ways. The governments of these nations are so corrupt that the politicians simply look the other way and allow these companies to literally get away with murder. I condemn
          these accidents as murder because safety is so egregiously
          ignored. My other inner conflict is, how will it hurt the economies of these poor nations who rely so heavily on the jobs being produced. If the workers organize, maybe, just maybe they can force change from within. There isn’t a
          guarantee of a favorable outcome though. Perhaps the
          companies in response will simply pull up stakes and go somewhere else and then we’re back to square one.
          That is exactly what happened here in the U.S..

          Sigrid, I know you have a heavy heart, I’ve read many of your post since 2012. You seem like a gentle person who just wants to shoulder the burdens of the world and I admire and applaud that. You are remarkable, just be careful and consider all consequences first. Don’t take my comments as defeatist, their not meant that way, i’m just trying to figure out
          where and how I can do the most good. I will say this though,
          if I were a betting man, i’d place my bet on you.

          • sigrid28

            Medical doctors and teachers live day-to-day with the obligation to go on caring about their patients and students despite the fact that most either cannot or will not do what these caregivers ask of them. Parents sometimes have a similarly futile task, no matter how much they love their children: Ditto for the children of aging parents. Hostile dependency ain’t no joke.

            So how are we to reject the help we have asked for without biting the hand that feeds us? Sometimes the answer is in a book. I hope it will not be too burdensome to you if I cite a passage from Norman Maclean’s memoir “A River Runs through It”:

            “You are too young to help anybody and I am too old,” he said. “By help I don’t mean a courtesy like serving choke-cherry jelly or giving money.”

            “Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly.”

            “So it is,” he said, using an old homiletic transition, “that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, ‘Sorry, we are just out of that part.'”

            I told him, “You make it too tough. Help doesn’t have to be anything that tough.” . . .

            “That should have been my text,” my father said, “We are willing to help, Lord, but what if anything is needed?”

          • FredAppell

            I see a lot of myself in that passage. We are all a work in progress, at least I hope we are. My problem is that my
            progressive philosophy and willingness to get involved are
            at odds at this juncture of my life. I know what needs to be
            done, but I need a good swift kick in the ass to do it.

          • sigrid28

            If any behinds are to be receiving a swift kick, Fred, they better be Republicans’!

          • FredAppell

            You’re much too kind.

      • plc97477

        Getting involved can be as easy as telling all those stores in the article that you will not shop there until they sign the agreement.

        • FredAppell

          Geez, if you guys keep letting me off the hook so easily, i’m liable to become full of myself. I’m only kidding, but that is a good
          start but it is only a start. I would like to do a whole lot more but I need to consider the size of the commitment that is required first.
          I’m a cautious person but I also want to make a large impact.

  • This is what happens when US comanies leave the US borders to set up shop where there aren’t any Laws protecting workers.
    They had a big fire…so?
    The US companies are THERE because they don’t have to care about safety concerns. Of course they had a fire, they’ll have plenty more too.
    Bring the manufacturing back to the US; sure you’ll pay more for clothes but you’ll be buying them from a neighbor not a foriegn devil that is stealing US jobs.

    • FredAppell

      Yes, but the currant GOP is trying to reduce those very laws here and when something like that tragedy occurs here, the company pays a fine and then it is business as usual. It doesn’t bother them financially either because the cost gets transferred to the rest of us. The money whores always win whether it is here or over seas.

    • idamag

      And, if those companies had any integrity, they would insist that workers be afforded those protections that US workers enjoy, except miners and the victims of the explosion in Texas.

  • idamag

    Here is where we can make a difference. The ammunition is BOYCOT.