New York, NY Wal-Mart Focus Of May Day Labor Events
Fueled in part by Wal-Mart subcontractor sweatshop factories, the crackdown on peaceful labor advocates in Bangladesh continues without an end in sight, according to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF). To celebrate May Day, labor groups around the nation are calling on Wal-Mart to pull out of the controversial Bangladesh factories.
Background: After a campaign by ILRF and allies, labor rights defenders Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter, and Aminul Islam were released from imprisonment. But they continue to face falsified criminal charges. The most egregious charges could result in lifetime imprisonment or death penalty.
Worker rights groups are demanding the dropping of these charges so that the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity can continue its important work of educating workers' about their legally guaranteed rights. Until the charges are dropped, Wal-Mart should not continue its business with suppliers that are behind the fabricated charges.
The ILRF has initiated an online petition and has circulated it over the internet. The effort is part of May Day/International Workers' Day. The group's goal is to reach 10,000 signatures by June 1st. Here is the wording on the petition addressed to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke:
"Peaceful labor advocates Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter, and Aminul Islam of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity continue to face falsified charges, brought on in part by Walmart's subcontractor. These charges include the possibility of lifetime imprisonment or death penalty. As a consumer, I am writing to urge Wal-Mart to take immediate action to ensure the falsified criminal charges are dropped and Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity's (BCWS) legitimate function as a labor rights defender is restored.
The poverty wages and poor working conditions, which Wal-Mart profits from as the largest buyer of Bangladeshi garments, are the real cause of worker unrest. Given the falsified charges and the rejection of its nongovernmental organization status, it is difficult for the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity to maintain its important work of educating workers about Bangladesh labor law, International Labor Organization standards, and brands' Codes of Conduct (including Walmart's) that apply to production in Bangladesh's ready-made-garment factories.
I respectfully call on you to:
1. Make a clear statement that Wal-Mart will not tolerate the persisting falsified criminal charges filed by suppliers Nassa Group and Envoy Group. Wal-Mart should immediately cease any and all current contracts with these suppliers and publicly state that Walmart will not do business with either vendor until the charges have been dropped.
2. Insist that the Government of Bangladesh unconditionally restore BCWS's nongovernmental organization registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau.
I expect to hear from you shortly that you have taken immediate effective action to protect worker rights defenders in Bangladesh. I also look forward to hearing that Walmart is taking concrete steps toward fair business practices in your relationships with suppliers in order to sustain decent working conditions and good wages."
To sign the online petition to Wal-Mart, go to: http://action.laborrights.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2033. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 413-586-0974 or visit sweatfree.org/bcws.
What you can do: In a related action, a group called May Day United, a national network of over sixty leading worker and community-based organizations, is promoting over 40 events on May 1st in cities and towns across the country.
Under the banner of "A Day Without Workers," May Day United is encouraging people to take part in May 1st actions and avoid work, shopping, and school-related activities. Organizers believe that May 1st falling on a Sunday this year will help facilitate the participation of many working families. May Day United has issued a know-your-rights guide for May Day demonstrators and set up a legal hotline to assist workers.
"Around the world, working people are making change in the streets, " said Joann Lo of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. "It's our turn in the United States to fight back against the pain inflicted on working families by corporate elites and their allies in government."
Energized by the resistance to anti-worker attacks emanating from Wisconsin and Arizona, unity is building around this year's May Day as immigrant rights groups, community organizations, and unions are working together on rallies and marches from coast to coast.
In New York City, the two major rally organizers held a joint press conference this past Tuesday announcing that they will be closing their rallies together. Additionally, in many places unions are participating for the first time in May Day events that are organized yearly by immigrant rights groups. Yesterday, a group of many of the largest United States trade unions released the following statement:
"America's unions are proud to partner with May Day United and other grassroots organizations this May Day. We understand that the fight for workers' rights and immigrant rights are cut of the same cloth. Politicians and their CEO backers are targeting all working people -- including immigrants -- to promote their corporate-backed political agenda and continue their power grab. This year on May Day, all working people are standing together to show the world that We Are One."
May Day United is a national network of worker and community-based organizations promoting dynamic actions on May 1st, 2011 for jobs with dignity and true equality. Workers and groups in need of legal support can call May Day United's hotline at 347-7MAYLGL. Find a May Day event near you at: http://maydayunited.org/actions/