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Bangladeshi garment workers visit campus speak on human rights

Visitors to expose realities of working and economic conditions of producing clothing for U.S. retailers

09/23/04

Three female Bangladeshi garment workers and Charles Kernaghan, the executive director for the National Labor Committee for Worker and Human Rights, spoke on Wednesday, Sept. 29, as part of the Bangladeshi workers’ tour for fair wages and better working conditions.

Kernaghan and the workers discussed the realities of the working and economic conditions under which the clothes that many U.S. consumers buy are produced.

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. The average garment worker in Bangladesh earns between 13 and 18 cents per hour while producing approximately 240 garments in a 12- to 14-hour workday. A majority of the garments, such as discount fashion apparel and athletic gear, are produced in Bangladesh and sold in large U.S. retail stores such as Wal-Mart.

Recently, many U.S. companies have pulled labor contracts out of Bangladesh in response to criticism that they exploit garment workers in these countries. Additionally, due to changes in policy arising out of the war on terrorism, it has become increasingly difficult for companies to contract labor relations with predominantly Muslim nations.

The National Labor Committee is leading a campaign to improve wages, with pay increases up to 25 cents more per hour.

This event was presented by The Edward B. Brueggeman center for dialogue, ethics/religion and society program, the department of theology, peace and justice programs and the center for business ethics and social responsibility.