Social Injustice

Unsafe Labor Conditions in Bangladesh

Purpose of Project

This social injustice can relate to both To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and to Bryan Stevenson's Ted Talk "We Need to Talk About an Injustice." In To Kill A Mockingbird, the mockingbird is a symbol of innocence. The workers who are being exposed to the harsh working conditions are like mockingbirds because they weren't used to being treated so harshly before they started working at the factories. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout always speaks up about what she thinks is wrong, even if not everyone agrees with her. The workers who work in the unsafe factories start to speak up and say that their working conditions are unfair and unsafe. In the Ted Talk, his grandmother told him to always do the right thing even if its hard. The U.S. and other countries that are trying to help change the working conditions are doing this because they know it's the right thing, even though it is very hard to change the conditions and keep them changed. In Bryan Stevenson's Ted Talk, he talks about how people loose their identity because others tell them how to act and because you are remembered for the bad things you do. To reclaim your identity, you need to do what you think is right, realize you are more than the worst thing you have done, and challenge injustice. If you start to reclaim your identity, you and your community can come together to demand justice.

Modern Day "Mockingbirds"

The social injustice is the unsafe labor conditions in Bangladesh. On April 24, 2013, a garment factory collapsed and killed more than 1129 people. Later it was found that the top floors were added illegally and weighed so much that the stories beneath it couldn't hold the weight, the exits in the building were chained off or boarded shut, and there were many fire hazards. The workers also have to deal with dangerous machinery, razors, and harmful chemicals. Most of the people that work in these factories are women that are very under payed, even though they are making clothes for some of the best brands in the world. There are also children as young as eleven who are working for twelve hours a day, even though they are not supposed to be working under such terrible conditions. Even though there are many harmful conditions in the factories, there are still people working there. The clothes that the workers make are sent to famous brands such as Walmart, H&M, and M&S. It was also announced that any workers who tried to organize were attacked by thugs that were hired by factory managers.

Social Context: "The Disease"

There are many factors that contribute to the causes of the unsafe labor conditions in Bangladesh. Most buildings are built without consultation with an engineer, many are built in places that are not able to withstand the stress of heavy manufacturing, and some add floors which are not able to be supported. The buildings then collapse, killing many of the workers. At one of the buildings, the fire hydrant system didn't work the right way, so they were unable to put out the fire, which again killed some of the workers. The Hazaribagh tanneries, which export millions of dollars in leather around the world, set off harmful pollutants into the air, causing the workers to get very sick. Just like the Triangle Shirt Factory fire that happened here in the United States, many fires are happening in Bangladesh, so we need to help make changes in their factory safety standards. Here in the U.S., there are many factors that influence our purchases, and the main one is cost. The cheaper the product is, the more likely we are to buy it. This means that, in order to make a profit, the bosses of the factories have to pay the workers less than the total cost of the clothes. By buying cheaper clothes, the U.S. is not helping raise the pay of the workers, or have the money go into bettering the workers working conditions.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus mentions that he doesn't want Scout or Jem to catch Maycomb's "usual disease." Maycomb's "usual disease" is the white people treating the African american community poorly because they are different. Tim Johnson, a dog who had rabies, was killed just because he was different and viewed as harmful to the community of Maycomb.

The people who are working in the factories are being treated unfairly. They are working in these factories because they need the money for themselves and their families. Their bosses know this so they think it is okay to make them work in such terrible conditions, because they know they won't quit, because they need the money. They are being taken advantage of, and just like Tim Johnson and the African American community in Maycomb, people don't care what happens to them.

Becoming Atticus Finch

Like Atticus, we are responding to this social injustice by trying to take action. These actions relate to Atticus' idea of courage because even if the labor conditions still aren't great, we know we did try to help make them better than they were before, and even when the workers knew that striking would only hurt them more, they still did it because they wanted their working conditions to change.

Atticus' definition of courage:

It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do (p. 149).

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus is told to shoot Tim Johnson because he had rabies and they didn't want it to spread all over town. Tim Johnson continued to slowly make his way towards Atticus, while Atticus was getting ready to shoot. Atticus had not shot a gun in a long time and was not sure how good his aim would be, but when it was time, he got the gun ready and shot Tim Johnson on the first try. Atticus knew it wasn't right to kill an innocent creature, but because it was for the good of everyone else in town, Atticus did it. Tim Johnson showed courage because, even though he knew he didn't stand a chance of staying alive, he continued to walk towards Atticus.

Washington is working with Bangladesh to help organizations get more members, form legally registered unions, and participate in collective bargaining. The U.S. needs to make sure that the labor law reforms are implemented correctly and we should increase funding's for groups that support workers. To change the system completely, tough punishments should also be enforced upon the factory owners who participate in anti-union activity. American and European companies are trying to come up with common standards for building and fire safety, and a five year plan signed by eighty-one retailers was announced to improve working conditions. The U.S. is trying to help by making sure the workers don't suffer, that they can have a good way to complain if any labor violations occur, and to put an end to violence. Many north american retailers have already come together to create a five year plan to improve the safety of buildings in Bangladesh. Permits are now required if you want to add another floor to a building and insurance is mandatory.