Time for Outrage
November 30, 2012 | Share
Time for Outrage—On Saturday night, November 24, well over 112 Bangladeshi workers were burned to death, trapped in a locked sweatshop, sewing garments for Wal-Mart, Disney, Sears, Sean Combs/ENYCE, Target, and others.
Tell Wal-Mart and the others: Never again!
Three mid-level managers at the Tazreen factory have been detained for questioning. But Mr. Uddin, Mr. Islam and Mr. Al-Amin could be released in just a few days and neither the factory’s owner nor top level management have been detained.
Both the Bangladeshi police and firefighters have confirmed that the collapsible gates on each floor were padlocked to keep the workers from fleeing the fire. Firefighters had to use bolt cutters to cut the locks.
Eyewitness account of a worker who, with his sister, escaped the fire:
"The gate was locked. We gave up hope for our lives...
Now I can imagine what hell is like"
Around 6:45 p.m. we heard the fire alarm go off. We were terrified, but the supervisor told us that nothing had happened and it was a false alarm. He ordered us to keep working. But were were really frightened.
Then we heard screaming from the lower floors, and in a minute, thick black smoke spread across our floor, engulfing the whole area. It was around 6:50 p.m. when the electricity went off. It was completely dark. We couldn't see anything. It was hard to breathe as the air was thick with poisonous black fumes. I felt like I was suffocating. All the workers were screaming, crying and trying to escape. We thought that we were all going to die. Then I pressed the green button on my cell phone, which gave us a little light. I grabbed the hand of my sister and tried to go down the stairs. But the gate was locked. We ran back and tried to break the window of the general manager's office on the fourth floor. We smashed the window and saw a bamboo ladder leaning on the wall of our building. First I let my sister climb down, and then I followed her. We were able to reach the roof of the third floor and from there we jumped to the ground. Both my sister and I were hurt in the fall.
Many new workers, especially women, were trapped and burned alive. Some jumped through the broken windows. Some found bamboo ladders to escape. The workers who tried to get down on the stairs were suffocated and burned alive. With the electricity off and the dense black smoke, it was hard to find a way to get out of the factory. The gate was locked. We gave up hope for our lives. Now I can imagine what hell is like. If I had waited even a few more minutes on the floor, my sister and I would have died. Thank God. He saved us. But we lost many of our young co-workers.
The Tazreen factory’s very wealthy owner, Delowar Hossain, has admitted that:
- 1,500 workers were being forced to work overtime on Saturday night, November 24 when the fire broke out. (Workers say the owner is lying, and that 1,800 to 2,000 workers were forced to work that night.)
- “...The workers were barred from leaving the second, third and fourth floors after the first fire alarm had rung.”
- “...the fire extinguishers did not work.”
- Wal-Mart...”did not complain about the absence of any emergency exits from the outside” and “did not even raise any objection over having a warehouse on the ground floor in the same building and near the staircase.” (The fire started in the ground floor warehouse, which was stacked to the ceiling with boxes of fabric, yarn, spools of thread and sewing machines, all of which were highly flammable.)
Source: Daily Star, November 29, 2012 “My Fault, But None Alerted Me.”
Under Bangladeshi law, the parents or guardians of the workers killed on the job should be compensated for the full wages the worker would have earned in his or her lifetime.
Moreover, there must also be significant compensation for those who were seriously injured, and at least four months wage to the over 1,000 workers who are now without work and unable to feed their families.
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