For weeks now the Workers in the Textile Industry have been striking and protesting starvation wages in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is the home of many of the production facilities for fast fashion brands like H&M, C&A, Zara, and Marks & Spencer. Bangladesh earns annually about $55 billion from exports of garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe, though the workers of Bangladesh don’t benefit from this. Although most fast fashion brands that source from Bangladesh claim to support a living wage, they are only required to pay the workers who make their clothes the legal monthly minimum wage, which is one of the lowest in the world and has until recently remained set at 8,000 taka (66,6€) since 2018.
Trade union negotiations over a new minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh have sparked mass demonstrations on streets across the capital. The protests have escalated since the government announced a minimum wage increase for the workers, from 1 December, to 12,500 taka (103,21€), far below the 23,000 taka (189,91€) a month workers say they need to keep their families from starvation.
Factory owners and police have responded to workers’ protests with threats and violence. The beatings a 22 year-old worker named Akhtar received by armed men at Dekko Knitwears left her with a broken arm. “They hit my back, my thighs and my arms repeatedly,” she says. Now, without use of one of her arms, she is unable to work. “I don’t know how I will survive the rest of the month,” she adds.
The only answer against this brutal exploitation and repression of our proletarian brothers and sisters in Bangladesh can be the international solidarity of our class, the working class. That means a general boycott of these companies, and demonstrations to peacefully block the entrances of these stores. We must also have full solidarity with the striking workers in retail stores in Germany, which are now being organized by the German trade union ver.di, and speak with them at the picket line about how their struggle is not isolated, but international in scope. This also goes for the striking locomotive workers in the German railways, who can put pressure on garment supply chains while also fighting for their demands with the GdL trade union.
It is with this message that I decided to spontaneously stand in front of the H&M store on Karl Marx Straße in Berlin Neukölln with a digital sign, calling for “solidarity with the strikers at H&M Bangladesh”. It took less than a half hour and the manager was already coming outside to threaten to call the police if I refused to leave. Mind you, I was standing on a public sidewalk, and despite the manager’s claims, was not on their premises.
We should not bend or not submit to the threats and gaslighting of the H&M corporation. That is why the Berlin left is supporting a protest on 24th November against this exploitation and the censorship of those who try to do something about it. We demand that the GdL, and ver.di trade unions schedule their next strikes for this same day, and for them to add the demands of their fellow workers in Bangladesh for a living wage to their own list of demands for a union contract. Because only with international solidarity can we win against modern day, multinational capitalism.
Join us in protest at 2pm on Friday, 24th of November in front of the H&M at Karl Marx Str 92, 12043 Berlin. To volunteer as an organizer (Ordner) you can email email@example.com with your Telegram, or Signal number so we can contact you.