Greed Kills in Sacrifice Zones

Bangladeshi people identify the bodies of their relatives who died in a fire at a garment factory in the Savar neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday Nov. 25, 2012. Polash Khan/AP Photo

    Have you been out doing any toy shopping for Christmas? While you get to see the joy on your child’s face when he opens presents what about the children being exploited working in sweatshops making them like in this video?

    Last week I mentioned that Walmart has gotten $1 billion (some sources say $1.5 billion) in corporate welfare. Each 200 employee store costs federal taxpayers $420,750 a year per store. Walmart gets corporate welfare even though in 2011, Walmart reported a net income of $15.4 billion on $422 billion of revenue with almost a 25% profit margin. In 2010 the Economic Policy Institute said the Walton’s family that owns Walmart is worth $89.5 billion. That is equal to the worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder, or 48.8 million households. Jay Nordlinger of the National Review (a right-wing magazine) argues that Walmart is a “free-market success story.” I find it funny that a corporation on the dole to taxpayers for $1 billion could be considered participating in “free market” capitalism.

    We, as taxpayers, pay for Walmart’s cost-cutting prices. Walmart’s Profit? Privatized. Walmart Expenses? Socialized. Did you know Walmart stores are unionized in many countries outside of North America? Walmart has 8,500  stores in 15 countries. After workers at a Walmart store in Québec successfully unionized, Walmart announced that it would close that store, citing “economic reasons.” In the last week Walmart workers have picketed Walmart stores around the country. Also, in the last week a sweatshop in Bangladesh that makes products for Walmart had a fire killing 112 workers. Given these facts my buffoon of the week award goes to anyone who continues to shop at a Walmart/Sam’s Club store until conditions at this corporation change.

   In the Bangladesh sweatshop disaster fire exits were blocked and workers told to go back to work. Clothes were made there by one of Walmart’s subcontractors. The workers were paid 20 cents an hour. The families of those killed will get $1,250 from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. A second fire hit another garment factory in the Dhaka suburb of Uttara on Monday. No casualties have been reported. Walmart is the largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh. Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said “Walmart is supporting, is incentivizing, an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions.” Nova added, “This factory is a product of that strategy that Walmart invites, supports, and perpetuates.”

    In 2010 there was a similar fire at a sweatshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In that fire 124 died (many of those jumping 11 stories to their death) and 100 were injured. Many of those who died were trapped by the lack of fire escapes and locked doors. Since 2006, 600 Bangladesh garment workers have died in fires. Here is a video of the fire. In 1991, Walmart contracted with the Saraka garment factory in Dhaka to make clothes, only one year after the plant had a fire killing 25 children. An NBC report about the same factory in April 2008, said the child workers were locked in the factory until they finished each day’s production. Last Monday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “the history of labor rights and unions in any developing society is always difficult” and that “there are strong forces that oppose workers being organized.” She added, “We had this in my own country.” She would certainly know that as she sat on the Board of Directors at Walmart for six years. 

    In September 2012 a garment factory in the commercial hub of Karachi, Pakistan caught on fire killing 260. There were no alarms, sprinklers or safety exits and windows had bars on them. Just a few hours before that fire a fire at a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore claimed 25 lives. In Punjab province, where Lahore is, authorities abolished labor inspections altogether in 2003 to develop a more “business-friendly environment.” These Third World “business-friendly environments” are killing too many of our fellow brother and sister workers. I heard a “news woman” on FOX NEWS the other day complaining about Egypt’s President Morrissey. She claimed he was an unfriendly to the West dictator. Actually he was elected by the people of Egypt and it seems the “news woman” has no problem with dictators as long as they are U.S. friendly. Who gives a crap that the citizens of a country lose their rights under a dictator as long as the dictator of a country is friendly to the U.S. (read U.S. corporate interests).  Which brings us to the fact U.S. shoppers at Walmart/Sam’s Club don’t give a rat’s ass that women and children suffer terrible working conditions, burn to death, have their countries natural resources exploited and have their air and water poisoned. All these shoppers care about is if they can get things they don’t even need but want anyway at rock bottom prices.

    It’s great to see that many of the Walmart workers in the U.S. are standing up for justice for themselves and picketing. They are fighting for fair wages, benefits and the rights of women to be promoted and paid the same as men. Many union members around the country stand ready to help their fellow workers at Walmart/Sam’s Club. But who will help the sweatshop workers? A boycott of Walmart and Sam’s could do the trick. As it is everyday women who know that women workers at Walmart and Sam’s are not treated equal to the men who work there. Yet, they go in and shop there anyway. They don’t care about their fellow U.S. women so I doubt they will care about one more fire that kills hundreds in a far off poor country. Short of people walking into Walmart/Sam’s Club and seeing their grandmother being gang-raped by the front door by several store managers I don’t know what will keep people from entering. The Walton family that owns Walmart considers places like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh “sacrifice zones.” They are poor countries to be exploited, beaten into submission, stripped, raped and used up until they find a new “sacrifice zone.” Their citizens don’t look like your grandmother so you’re not going to stay out of Walmart and Sams are you? Would videos of burned dead and injured workers who make your products cure your “need” for bargains? How about videos of women and children screaming and jumping 13 floors to their death from a burning sweatshop? What measure of horrors will it take to make you realize that shopping at Walmart/Sams Club has been a “sacrifice zone” to your soul?

    Corporations like Walmart are counting on your complacency. The amount of evil they get away with is based on your tolerance. Our politicians here and around the world (that the corporations own) will comply with the anti-environmental, pro-drilling, pro-spilling, pro-killing, anti-regulating pro-corporate agenda. The world’s children be damned for the corporate short-term gain. Be discriminating about what you buy for Christmas gifts (or whatever your holiday is). Try and buy local, fair trade and humane made products. If you are a Christian ask yourself, “Where would Jesus shop?”

Bangladesh activist faces prison or a death sentence for exposing Walmart’s Bangladesh sweatshops.

Move.meant: Higher


“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22


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3 responses to “Greed Kills in Sacrifice Zones

  1. Old radical labor spoke about the power labor wields by sticking our hands in our pockets. They need us to produce and if a great number of us refused the capitalist masters would be brought to their knees. But as you have pointed out, they need us to consume as well. The working class is so browbeaten and mesmerized by our consumer culture we have forgotten-never known- that there is in our hands a power greater than their hoarded gold.

  2. I agree that i better to buy locally made, fair trade, and I would add to that list union made/produced/distributed if possible. But even this highlights the slavery of the poor who may not be able to afford fair trade/locally made products, even though they may want to. Which really just shows the root contradiction of capitalism- it works best for the few with most

  3. elecpencil

    Andrew I don’t think I would disagree with one word you said. I was involved in a work slowdown (working the rules) for 21 days straight. I have never see a better example of the power that workers can have in the workplace that that action. I also have blogged about the power of closing our wallets and purses. As a one time IWW member I can tell you the working-class would be better off today had the workers joined the IWW than the AFL-CIO unions.

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