Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Poster of the Week

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 1911/2011
Laura Tolkow
Offset, 2011
New York
CSPG’s Poster of the Week commemorating the 100th anniversary of the tragic 1911Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, horrifically evokes this week’s tragic headlines about the deadly fire in Bangladesh. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City and 146 workers died, mostly young Italian and Jewish immigrant women.  On Saturday, November 24, 2012, a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory killed 112, and more bodies may be found.
In 1911 New York and 2012 Bangladesh, many workers died because the factory bosses ordered the exit doors to be locked and ignored safety issues. In Bangladesh there were also dummy fire extinguishers, and bosses who ordered the employees back to work after fire alarms went off. There were no emergency exits.

The Poster of the Week includes the statement, “This fire changed America." This is partially true.  The outrage resulting from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire let to stronger health and safety conditions in many U.S. workplaces. Unfortunately, it did not prevent corporations from producing their items overseas, where sweatshop conditions are rampant.
Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of ready-to-wear clothing after China, exporting about $18 billion worth of garments a year. Employees in the country’s factories are among the world’s lowest-paid, with entry-level workers making the government-mandated minimum wage of about $37 a month or slightly above. Tensions have been running high between workers, who have been demanding an increase in minimum wages, and the factory owners and government. A union organizer, Aminul Islam, who campaigned for better working conditions and higher wages, was found tortured and killed outside Dhaka this year.

Bangladesh has about 4,500 garment factories that make clothes for stores including Tesco, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's and Carrefour. Although photos of charred Wal-Mart “Faded Glory” labels have been shown on television and the net, Wal-Mart is denying that they still used that clothing factory, saying that it was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for the company. However, the International Labor Rights Forum, which tracks fires in the Bangladesh garment industry, said documents and logos found in the debris indicated that the factory produced clothes for Walmart’s Faded Glory line as well as for other American and foreign companies.

When will we ever learn!

Poster available from Syracuse Cultural Workers:

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