Fashion Victims

2013 ,    »  -   21 Comments
Ratings: 7.65/10 from 23 users.

Dhaka, the chaotic capital of Bangladesh, is one of the poorest cities in the world, a place where labor is dirt cheap, and rules are loose. 75% of all export income comes from making clothes for rich countries. International retailers, including some of Australia's biggest names, have flooded in over the last decade to take advantage of the lowest paid workers in the world.

Muktar worked in a garment factory, not making clothes; she was a safety compliance officer in the doomed Rana Plaza. She was on the fifth floor of the building talking to two of her friends when it collapsed. Muktar has come to the hospital in Savar to see one of those nurses who fell with her into the void. Her friend was brought here along with hundreds of other dead and wounded factory workers. It's the first time Muktar has been well enough to visit her workmate.

Labony's arm was amputated when they cut her out of the wrecked building. The three women had landed close together. Labony remembers opening her eyes in complete darkness. Thousands of people were buried in the rubble of the eight-story building. More than a thousand died.

The ward is a pitiful place. The vast majority of clothing workers are women and all of these women were in the garment factories of Rana Plaza when it collapsed. The doctors saved their lives, but no one can restore their lost limbs, or dead workmates. Of the thousands injured, more than 100 had limbs amputated, women like Pachi, whose name means bird in Bengali, or 18-year-old Sonia, whose wound still throbs with pain where her leg was cut off. Others have different injuries. Shopi's chest was crushed under concrete. Aruthi is 14. She began work in the factory when she was 12.

Her factory produced clothes for international retailers, including Benetton. She has no idea what will happen to her now. In a country with no social security, these women rely on their families to take care of them, doing the simple tasks they can no longer do. None of them know that they will be properly compensated. So far, they've received a few hundred dollars each in lost wages from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer's Association.

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21 Comments / User Reviews

  1. oQ

    When i see north American babies wearing BIG brand names...i cringe. Second Hand shopping is the way~

  2. rudeboi

    I don't see anything wrong with people wearing whatever they want. What makes me pissy is that people are forced (yes, forced) to work in sweatshops because they have to feed their children. They make bulls*it for a few pennies, and in turn that bulls*it is sold at a 1000% mark up.

    These owners and designers and whoever else, have no shame and will never come within 100 hundred miles of these dungeons. Money is the goal, and they can never get enough of that. I was looking at some ridiculously priced bulls(it online the other day . They were selling a effing sweatshirt $600, A sweatshirt--who buys this s*it?

    Also, I have often wondered over the years; how much money is enough for these insanely wealthy people? 50 billion? 100 billion? How does a person with that kind of money even sleep at night, when vast majority of the world lives on a hand full of rice a day? Which is why I chose to end all unnecessary spending and s*it collecting. None of us need a fraction of the things we've collected. And what does a person with 50 billion dollars tell his/her maker when he/she is standing in front of them? "I'm sorry, I didn't know 16,000 children die everyday from hunger related issues. 16,000 children, die, because they don't have enough to eat, and someone is sitting on a mountain of pure gold.

    Okay, I'll climb down off of my soapbox now.

  3. Jo McKay

    Very hard to watch but very very important. I can not imagine how anyone could watch this and not require more from themselves in researching 'where' the goods they consume come from, who benefits, how are the people and their environments and their governments treated?
    Fair Trade is about a fair wage paid for work performed,safe work places, environmental and sustainability responsible companies, and products grown or made for quality, providing both worker and customer satisfaction.
    There is nothing wrong with making a fair profit; but that is never what these exploitive and horrific criminal corporate bloodsuckers have been about - all they care about is greed, and image,only as it might affect how much money they make.
    In my opinion, if any product can not be made within the principles of Fair Trade and provide a reasonable profit, then we do not need that product. Sometimes these things are simpler then they seem.
    ps. - and the b.s. issue justifying the exploitation of whole countries (or a good % of it's people and environment) that an exploitive wage, enslavement like living, poor air and water, etc. is better then what they had before is exactly that B.S. Get the Corps out and small biz and coops and markets will flourish.
    Buy Fair Trade people - or make it yourself; it is the only right thing to do.

  4. Harry Nutzack

    watching this reminded me of a news article i read a couple of years ago. it related to the nike factories in indonesia. the workers made 25 bucks a week. the company outlet store that ONLY the workers had access to would sell them a pair of nike top of the line sneakers for that 25 bucks (they were allowed to buy up to 5 pairs a week). this allowed them to then go out on their day off, and hawk that pair of sneakers for 75 bucks to tourists (who saved about 50% of the retail price by doing so). this policy allowed them to actually "get ahead" on their low wages. those with teen kids would have the kids hawking the sneakers, so with the 5 pair a week policy, they could increase their wages by 900% (though it would take a month or so to reach that level by reinvesting their profits). the factory was making a greater profit on the sale to the worker than nike, so everybody in the equation was "winning". the caveat is, it relies on the tourism to work. thus, such a scheme would NEVER work in bangladesh.

    to see this "horror show" (as that is really the only apt description of what these workers are subjected to) is to witness the REAL tragedy of "offshoring". yeah, it has hit our economy hard here in the states, but VERY few folks here endure anywhere near the hardship those portrayed workers do. when i saw that one sweatshop was a Kmart contractor, i honestly felt a desire to go toss a brick through my local Kmart's window. to add insult to injury, the billionaire CEO of Kmart/sears is attempting to become "sole owner" of the corp by buying up the stock (while driving the value as low as he can). even though i have only made 2 or 3 purchases in that local Kmart in the past decade, i will never cross that stores threshold again.

    now the conundrum: do you stop purchasing clothing made in bangladesh? if you do, doesn't that sentence these poor serfs to even MORE crushing poverty? as much as it pains me to think of contributing to their near enslavement, it is at least equally painful to think i would punish them more than anybody else by boycotting their work. honestly , what is "the right thing" in a case like this?

  5. DigiWongaDude

    Another great post. "The right thing"? I remember seeing something in a documentary. It asked the consumer who was considering spending $5,000 on a handbag* to consider instead how that money could affect the person making it. A year salary? Two years? Five years? Whatever 'pleasure' could be attained from sporting a luxury 'good' (ha!), hence the desire to purchase it, would surely be infinitely surpassed by such an altruistic act. Use some of the $5,000 to pay for the expense of going over there to deliver the money in person, and I would imagine there would be remorse in having wasted so much on the flight...?

    *(not being sexist, could have been a present for the Mrs/Ms, I don't recall)

  6. Bob Trees

    So sad to watch this doc, but it needs to be done. How can anyone support this process? I feel I'm somewhat removed by buying secondhand and by buying quality merchandise. At least I'm hoping I do. Still I do see some of the "quality merchandise" with tags saying made in Bangladesh. It leaves me wondering.

    Thank you for the doc.

  7. Harry Nutzack

    awesome idea, on its face. but what of the 15 buck pair of jeans? i don't buy "luxury" anything. my last car was old enough to legally drink, and was a spartan base model to begin with ("comrade ivanov, proletarian transport device" was the moniker i hung on within a few days of taking ownership, lol). i don't even wear a watch, let alone jewelry. a friend once described me as him imagining me eating out of cans with white labels marked FOOD, and "gourmet night" for me would consist of eating out of ones marked GOOD FOOD. my brother told me,"i can honestly say, you're the only person i know that i could imagine winning the lottery, and running right out and buying a used car.". i don't own a suit, and the last one i did own was bought at a thrift store for 3 or 4 bucks, with the intent of it being a halloween costume (i was later married in that "costume", and wore it for a few weddings, and a couple of funerals). my wardrobe is basically work clothes, and well worn at that. once a year or so, i replace tattered rags with new work clothes, funds and circumstance permitting. what "high end" purchases i do make are usually tools, and that only because bitter experience has show low budget tools tend to disintegrate at most inopportune moments, resulting in broken knuckles, fingers, etc.

    that said, i live in an area rife with "conspicuous consumerism" of the worst kind. i see the 5 grand handbags, 1/4 mill cars, folks festooned with ornamentation that would make a saudi prince green with envy. i begrudge them none of their "success", but can't help but feel those dollars could be used MUCH more productively.

    my point is i wholeheartedly agree the "gucci" set could indeed do as you say, but what is a "proletarian lad" such as myself to do? toss a money order for 20 bucks in an envelope postmarked "starving worker, general delivery, bangladesh"? this is why the above posted "conundrum" really resonates with me. MY options are basically "buy it" or "don't". if i opt for "don't", do i not just contribute to those workers merely having a WORSE lot in life?

  8. Harry Nutzack

    don't take my above post as praise for phil knight, far from it. my point was that even as vampiric a corp as nike had some mechanism that allowed those underpaid workers to "do better". or at least the article i had seen represented that as so. assuming it to be correct, it allowed some "hustle" to convert that 25 bucks to 250, which though it seems a pittance here, is a fairly good blue collar living there. it's why the nike job is sought after, not the base wage itself. those workers in bangladesh have no such recourse (even though at least some of their output is sold at equivalent profit). it makes their plight all the more tragic than that of the nike worker. that was the only intent in mentioning it.

  9. dewflirt

    It's an odd one isn't it? Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I used to volunteer in a charity shop, I just do the repairs now. Always annoyed me that people were so willing to get rid of perfectly good clothes and buy more, and yet please me that they had a second life, gave cash to charity and made clothes affordable for the less affluent (me and mine)
    This whole thing put me in mind of the industrial revolution, they need a Titus Salt or a Robert Owen.

  10. Harry Nutzack

    or a "king luud" at least. perhaps a better idea is removal of the "contract system" that allows these corporations to farm out their labor in so blatantly irresponsible a manner. the nike plant in achem's link is luxurious compared to most of those bangladesh death traps. but then much more of the profit of production disappears from the bangladesh economy as well. making the plants more automated just reduces the number of folks with jobs. a "simple answer" appears to elude the problem.

  11. dewflirt

    Had to look up King Luud, shame on me! :)

  12. Harry Nutzack

    my favorite "labor organizer" that never existed, yet rallied so many workers, and ended up on so many bosses enemies lists. the luuddites are a mostly misunderstood force of the industrial revolution, and grossly misrepresented in the use of their moniker in modern language. ol' luud is the only monarch i will ever bend a knee to, lol

  13. dewflirt

    The real Ned Ludd was from Leicester, spitting distance from my home town which is why I should have known. Funny you should mention the misunderstanding, my man dreamt that he'd bought a phone that kept breaking, it was called an Uddite :)

  14. Harry Nutzack

    i have one of those (it even deletes my contacts when it feels like it), only it's called a "kyocera", i believe (and truth be told, i have been known to rail at it "i'm gonna go all luddite on your *ss, you POS!!")

  15. dewflirt

    Are you a Power Ranger? :)

  16. Harry Nutzack

    i've been called lots of things over the decades, "power ranger" was NEVER one of them ;-D

  17. DigiWongaDude

    Harry, you and I have so much in common. I have more clothes than I know what to do with (but virtually live out of a suitcase) having bought none of them. I get zero satisfaction from going shopping. Malls give me anxiety attacks and claustrophobia. Same as you with food, same as you with tools.

    So I posted my reply to you before having watched this, and afterwards thought - this applies just as much, if not more, to the cheap bargains. 'Gucci set' or not, this affects us all.

    I thought of the animal fur protest adverts of the 80's. Throwing red paint on those supporting certain brands. But really, apart from that being assault, this programme shows why the problems are so bad - a factory meets an order, and then gets asked for more...and more...and more, and if they fail to deliver? They'll get dumped. The conditions worsen, the pressure increases and mistakes, accidents and catastrophes occur. And if the companies don't squeeze ever tighter, the shareholders at the great casino, won't be happy.

    At the end of the day, there is little to nothing we personally can do - there is no right thing. These problems are systemic to free market capitalism. The trashing of unions, for example, is a blatant slap in the face. But if unions were somehow installed, then these companies will pull out and take their business to the next emerging country and we're back to nailing jelly to the wall.

    The planet is being squeezed by a python of profit, and I'm sick of it.

  18. dewflirt

    It was the phone that gave it away ;)

  19. afarah

    69 Aus $ for a jumper and a labour gets paid 16 us $ a week, that says it all about the scale of unfairness in this world, it all come down to money over human life.

  20. Catherine Hays

    Crushing poverty is not remedied by crushing worker's bodies. This is no conundrum. If the company knows your refusal to buy is based on ethics (ie, the more people boycott), the company will have to change to stay competitive. Thus by NOT buying, we may change the system. Exactly WHAT impetus does company have to change their ethics if we continue buying?


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