Hearts Broken, Standing Up to Injustice

IMG_4672By Hanna Claeson

The New York Times says that
“survivors [of the factory collapse] described a sensation akin to being in an
earthquake: hearing a loud and terrifying cracking sound; feeling the concrete
factory floor roll beneath their feet; and watching concrete beams and pillars
collapse as the eight-story building suddenly seemed to implode.”[1]

On Wednesday, April 24th,
2013, the global garment industry took another 230 lives in Bangladesh. [2] They share the fate of the 112
workers that died in a fire at Tazreen Factory last November and nearly 900
others. A total of 1,230 deaths is the number that you come up with when you
sum various news accounts of casualties due to garment factory fires and
collapses in Bangladesh.[3]
Of course, they also share the fate of countless of others, whose lost lives
the media forgot to write about.

In Bangladesh, at least 1,230
hearts have stopped beating only because factories and the brands[4] that depend on them think that it is ok
to make their employees sew clothes in ticking time bombs.

These 1,230 stopped hearts left thousands
and thousands more stomachs empty.
Because if you accept Bangladesh’s
minimum wage of $37 a month[5]
to risk your life in one of those factories, it is not because you are crazy.
It is because your family needs it so much that you have little other choice.

Maybe it is self evident, but
these 1,230 hearts also did what all hearts do. They loved and were loved.

And you can be certain that these
1,230 stopped hearts left at least another 2,460 hearts broken. This is an
extremely modest estimate, based on an admittedly non-scientific assumption,
that everyone who died was loved by at least two other people.

The garment industry is maybe more
profitable than investment in foreign wars. No purchase of high-cost weapons is
necessary: just sewing machines, faulty wires, run down buildings and the
belief that one brown life is tradable for the underwear you put on in the

And instead of debating morality,
we protect ourselves from the cold by wrapping ourselves in massacres. We get
ready to make love by dressing in the products of death traps. 

In Bangladesh alone, garment
factories and brands have stopped or irreparably damaged at least 3,690 hearts.
They care little enough about human life to think it is ok to pay workers far
below a living wage to die making their clothes. Those factories and brands are
betting that the people that buy their clothes do not care enough either. 

So far they have been right. But
I’d bet that they are underestimating us. I know they are
underestimating our power to revolt and stand up to injustices.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/26/world/asia/bangladeshi-collapse-kills-many-garment-workers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


[3] http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/DeadlySecrets.pdf

[4] Major buyers in Bangladesh include H&M, GAP and Wal-Mart

[5] http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/DeadlySecrets.pdf