Monday, April 29, 2013

At least 380 People Lose Their Lives in Building Collapse in Banglasdesh

The above headline is not really news, as it happened about 5 days ago. There is no longer a rescue mission, but a recovery mission in Bangladesh, in which the death toll will most likely rise dramatically. This tragedy has not been covered 24/7 on the major television news networks, but at least it has been given more than a few seconds mention.

I am sure that the majority of Americans did not pay too much attention to the news of the building collapse and I am very sure that the majority of Americans could not pinpoint Bangladesh on a map of the world, if they have even ever heard of it before.  So with most people the tragedy was not close to home and the victims were poor and Muslims , so little attention was paid to it.

The truth about this tragedy is that it is closer to home than we think. Those killed were young men and women and children, who were employed as garment workers in a garment factory. They made the very clothes that Americans and Europeans buy at Walmart and other clothing stores. These are the clothes that are sold in department stores at a relatively inexpensive price. The reason why clothes made in Bangladesh and other poor third world countries are so cheap is that the garment workers are paid about $38 a month for six 12 hour days a week. And why are the clothes we buy made in Bangladesh, Vietnam and China? The answer is that the cost of labor is extremely cheap as compared to the US and elsewhere. Garment factories in Bangladesh make clothing for American and other Western companies, who wish to lower the cost of producing a product, while at the same time  making a profit for the shareholders. If we own shares in Walmart or other such companies our shares do better, the worse the garment workers do!

Fortunately the owner of the garment factory was arrested for willfully neglecting the safety of his employees. The less he pays his workers and the less he pays for their safety, the more money he gets from his American and European clients, who gladly look the other way on safety measures. It is odd that in a third world country like Bangladesh the owner responsible for this tragedy was arrested and will likely spend his life in prison, if convicted, while  the owners of the West, Texas fertilizer plant that exploded recently, will probably not even have to spend an hour in jail.

The next time you purchase an article of clothing look at the label and see where it was made. Also if you own shares in American companies that outsource their work to Bangladesh and other third world countries find how how much money the workers there make and compare it to what you paid for the item. Then think back to this tragedy.

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Ablog about liberal politics andsocial issues