Take Action: Urge Brands to Help Free Labor Activists
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Dozens of labor leaders and workers are facing falsified criminal charges as part of a crackdown on the labor movement in Bangladesh. At least 24 activists have been jailed in harsh conditions where they've received death threats.
Please sign our petition calling on H&M, Gap, Inditex (Zara), VF (North Face), and C&A to urge their suppliers to withdraw the charges and press for the activists to be released from jail.
The man peering through the bars of a police van in the photo above is Ibrahim, an organizer with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity in Ashulia, who was arrested on December 21st after attending a meeting called by the industrial police to discuss wage-related demonstrations. Ibrahim reports that while in police custody he has been threatened with death by "crossfire." He remains in jail after his request for bail was denied.
The minimum wage in Bangladesh's garment industry is equal to an appallingly low US$67 a month. This wage has been fixed since 2013 and is not due to be reviewed for at least another year. Meanwhile, the cost of living has increased dramatically: more than 6% per year since 2013. Workers who already couldn't cover basic expenses on these low wages are now struggling even harder to survive. In December, with no other route for raising their frustrations and demands, workers at dozens of factories held peaceful walk-outs and demonstrations for a higher wage. Instead of agreeing to pay a living wage, or even to bring forward a wage review, factory owners brought unsubstantiated criminal charges against dozens of labor leaders and garment workers.
Of the 24 activists and workers already arrested, all remain in police custody and have been denied bail. Some, like Ibrahim, have received threats of torture or death. The charges also include hundreds of "unnamed" workers, allowing factory owners to simply add workers they see as troublemakers to the list whenever they wish. In addition, over 1500 workers have been dismissed from their jobs and potentially blacklisted from future garment work.
Some apparel brands and retailers have sent a joint letter of concern to Bangladesh's Prime Minister, but that is not enough. All companies sourcing from the factories behind the falsified charges must insist that their suppliers withdraw the charges and urge the government to free the activists. Click here to call on H&M and the other companies to act now!
This email was sent by the International Labor Rights Forum.
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