It has been a pretty busy week so far and this beautiful weather has been a much needed treat(ment) for the woes of working a stressful job and trying to get by. Fortunate for me, but unfortunately for 500 other people, there will no longer be good and bad days, nice weather or poor, just silence. My heart breaks to find out that the death toll from the building collapse in Bangladesh has reached 500 victims, because these deaths were not only avoidable, but also a sign of the times we live in.
One expert went into detail about how the workers should have formed a union, since under their country's law unions are legal and it is their right. This same expert then went on to discuss with the CBC host about how the government is calling this a tragic "accident" and how workers rights need to be addressed and fought for in the garment industry.
While many may see this generalized excerpt as proper given the situation, I cannot sit back and accept such nonsense. I agree with many of the points that the media has made regarding this unfortunate event, but so much has been missed and unfortunately it is going to take more than just Joe Fresh and Galan Weston to institute proper change.
One of the main arguments I have seen come out of this entire incident is that not only do companies need to police their garment factories more, but also support a union mentality in order to protect workers.
What a joke!
It does not take much to see evidence of continued union bashing in workplaces found in Canada and you think companies are honestly going to take the time and money in ensuring workers overseas have better conditions!?
I have worked in jobs where management has made every effort possible to have security and certain employees keep an ear out for any talk of unions at all. Upon hearing of any union conversation, these individuals would report the workers and they would be terminated immediately for "poor performance". Looking at the sweatshops used to provide companies with cheap clothing and record profits, workers are treated no different than the sewing machines they operate. They are expected to come into work daily, perform their duties to the company and ask no questions as their jobs are sacred compared to the alternative. We may look at the factory that has collapsed and state that we would never work there, but those workers were most likely not their to work either, they were there to support families, to feed children and to attain some form of financial freedom in a system that doesn't give them the time of day.
How can companies police their factories, when the level of corruption and deception by the government and companies themselves work as the foundation to this system?
I can tell you with utmost confidence that the only policing going on in that factory was between management against the workers. A no tolerance attitude in an environment that only focuses on the bottom line. These workers were told to get back to work immediately after an alarm had just gone off stating something was wrong and out of fear more than anything else, they did just that and ended up paying the ultimate price.
How can we ensure a proper and ethical direction for our country, when we as people indirectly condone such barbaric practices? All the while, the only winners in this scenario are the clothing companies themselves, because as I have stated in previous entries, the workers destroy themselves on a daily basis making quotas, while the ignorant consumers in Canada and the United States bankrupt themselves buying the hottest fashion at highly inflated prices.
As television brought the Vietnam war into the households of Americans and opened their eyes, so to must the countless examples shown to us about the products we buy. The consumer has power in the market, but we as people, not consumers, need to start raising our voices and giving a damn. If we allow this kind of stupidity to continue guiding us in our lives, how long before we allow such acts to happen on our own soil?
I want you to imagine your child or close friend if you have no children, think about how much you care about them and then imagine their misfortune if they were forced to work in one of these garment factories and ultimately ended up lying among other bodies, because their manager didn't care about them, only about that imaginary bullshit called the "bottom line"?
We need to start removing the bottom line from our vocabularies and begin adding more accurate terms like human beings, quality and unity. The collapse in Bangladesh is not the first incident where people have died needlessly for the consumer, it happens here and it will continue to happen until people start to speak up.
We as people should not have to be constantly reminded by death when something isn't right. We are free persons, educated persons and we all have hearts, all the tools needed to know when something is wrong and more importantly know when to act. Canadians know the importance of equality and safety in the workplace and just because we require the labour of other nationalities to manufacture our products, it doesn't mean we ignore their safety.
A Vietnamese proverb that was told to me once by an NDP MPP:
"When you bite into a delicious fruit, remember the person who planted the tree."
Until Next Time...