When a garment factory union organizer in Gazipur, Bangladesh, was beaten in April while meeting with workers about their nascent union, the Solidarity Center Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund was there to help him cover the medical care he needed, an expense he otherwise could not have afforded.
The Solidarity Center launched the Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund in April 2014, following an increase in violence and harassment against workers, many of them young women, who were seeking to form unions to protect their health, dignity and rights on the job. Donations of more than $15,500 over the last year from individuals and organizations have helped to provide costly medical treatment for organizers beaten or attacked while speaking to workers about their rights, and temporary food and shelter for workers fired for trying to improve their workplace.
Following the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013 and other high-profile catastrophes, the Bangladesh government began recognizing worker rights and the country’s own labor laws, allowing workers to form representative unions. Garment workers have since established more than 300 factory-level unions and seen more than 15 collective bargaining agreements signed.
But in the past year, violence and retaliation against workers seeking safe workplaces, protection from sexual harassment and better-than-subsistence-level wages has escalated. “A severe climate of anti-union violence and impunity prevails in Bangladesh’s garment industry,” according to a March International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report. “The violence is frequently directed by factory management.”
When garment workers are allowed to form unions, they have the opportunity to create positive changes at their workplaces.
There’s still time to donate to the Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund.