workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

Bribing the bosses

A Bangladeshi garment firm has agreed to stop assaulting union activists, to pay the medical bills of a union leader who was badly beaten by company goons last year, and to reinstate several fired union activists with back pay, the New York Times reports. The firings and beatings at two Azim Group factories in Chittagong were captured on video tape; Azim manufactures garments for North Face, Nautica, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, the Gap, and other brands.

After weeks of negotiations, Azim agreed to halt its gangster-style union-busting (illegal even under Bangladesh law) and recognize the union in exchange for the companies (which say their garments were produced at different Azim Group factories) agreeing to resume placing orders with the company. Azim insists it is paying the medical bills only as a “humanitarian” gesture.

Would a union member caught on camera beating a boss be permitted to resume work if he agreed to pay the medical bills?

Nonetheless, it is a victory of sorts, as decades of anti-sweatshop work have left some contractors unable to turn a blind eye to the abuses that inevitably result from their race-to-the-bottom subcontracting, forcing them to insist at least that workers be able to manufacture their garments without being beaten for their trouble.

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