Following a four day shutdown of hundreds of factories by strikes and a series of violent confrontations involving tens of thousands of people, Bangladeshi garment workers have forced the bosses into a 77% rise to the minimum wage, although it is still the lowest minimum wage in the world. This victory will hopefully be a catalyst to other garment workers in India, China, Cambodia, and Laos, who are being held back from confrontation by the boss’s threats of relocation and dismissals.
Millions of workers are employed across the region in the garment industry accounting for over 75% of several countries’ GDP, so the bosses cannot stand a shutdown of longer than a few days. All power to the workers!
The garment industry has come under the international spotlight over the last year. The huge factory blaze in April that resulted in the deaths of 1,100 people highlighted the disgusting wages, conditions, and non-existent health and safety that run through the garment trade.
Despite huge multinational brands claiming they would pressure the Bangladeshi government into driving up standards, little had changed. nm m The rise in the monthly minimum wage from $38 to $68 has been won by workers taking matters into their own hands. Although still ‘poverty pay’ by international standards, it will hopefully improve the lives of the four million Bangladeshi’s who work in the sector.
The pay rise has still to be officially rubber stamped by the government (expected later this week) but the factory bosses do not want to give any increase in pay claiming that:
“The proposed wage for an unskilled newcomer would increase their production cost significantly and destroy the industry in a fiercely competitive global market.”
There are still large numbers of people demanding a much bigger pay rise, and are still refusing to go back to work. Solidarity!
***Update – Monday 18th November***
Over 140 Bangladeshi garment factories have shut today as thousands of workers show their unhappiness at the new minimum wage. They say that the 77% raise does not apply to all skilled workers, and that some bosses have slashed food and transport allowances to offset the pay rise. The struggle continues!
This past Friday, a small but wily group of anarchists and other angries took to the streets in a show of solidarity with those facing state repression. The specific call out for the march was to express solidarity with Grand Jury resisters Matt, Maddy, and KteeO, to rally against the criminalizing of the homeless population in Bloomington, and to convey ongoing solidarity with those who still carry charges from the anti-prison noise demo last new years.
Music blared as we took the streets downtown, holding together in tight formation. Pairs and threes sporadically broke away from the group to hand out fliers, wheatpaste posters, put up stickers, confront journalists, or set off small fireworks. We made a quick stop to yell at the jail, and then made our way south, taking all three lanes of College Ave. At this point, undercover cops who had been zigzagging around town on foot tailing the march grabbed two comrades, one of whom was in the process of spray painting “BURN THE PRISONS” on a wall. The two were quickly de-arrested and made getaways, much to the chagrin of the burly undercovers. Unable to put any humans behind bars, they settled for snatching and destroying our sound cart.
Shaken but undeterred, the march quickly regrouped and lit torches. Confronted with flaming torches and angry chants, the undercover cops quickly retreated and were replaced by other police followed from a distance. A few bar-goers bolstered our spirits as they popped out to shout Fuck the police! Our voices held strong with chants and yells until we approached a punk venue, shouting The punks: up ‘em! The pigs: fuck ‘em! A crowd of excited punks greeted us as the door, many expressing sadness that they had missed out on the fun. Despite blaring sirens and the appearance of even more cops, we were able to safely disperse among the crowd waiting for the show outside.
Some analysis from a participant:
By most standards, this march was fairly small (around 50-60 people) and arguably inconsequential. However, certain aspects of it are noteworthy, and represent a windfall for those of us here who are continually dreaming of ways to challenge and subvert our daily existance. When our comrades were retrieved from the beefy arms of the state, everyone knew that this was the thing that should have happened. Not even a year ago, other participants in such a march would have contested spraypainting or de-arresting on the spot, with finger-pointing and cries of violence!
All improvements aside, we should have kept better tabs on the undercovers the whole time (as we were well aware of them from nearly the beginning) and we should have been aware enough of our surroundings to prevent our friends from being snatched in the first place. Buddy up!
We’d also like to take a moment to discuss the messaging of the march. Clearly we hate cops as much as anyone with a head on their shoulders, but we have some complicated feelings about the message on the front banner: Police are the absolute enemy. The police are an easy target for anarchists, but they’ve lastingly proven to be a foolish gang to pick a fight with. We understand police as an absolutely integral and clearly visible part of the system we position ourselves against, but we could just as easily position ourselves against those people and objects that also affect us and hold us captive on a daily basis: landlords, bosses, bureaucrats, abusive partners. And let’s not forget the way our physical world has been constructed to alienate and police us: security cameras everywhere, hideous public art and architecture, graffiti-proof paint on the train bridge, etc. Falling into a populist, lowest-common-denominator rhetoric of well, everyone hates the cops, right? is dangerous and doesn’t help sharpen an analysis that calls for the destruction of not only the cops but the entire system of laws and control that they uphold.
We’re aware that, in a singular way, demonstrations and marches like this will not change much, and that our pithy cries are oh-so-barely audible by those that they are intended for. However, the level of interpersonal trust and camaraderie that de-arresting our friends and sticking together required was truly impressive, and points to an extended process of building relationships toward a project of revolt and insurrection. It is only by learning how to struggle – with each other, in the streets – that we can ever hope to move toward the destruction of this society, which is inseperable from the destruction of the prisons that hold our friends, and so many others, captive.
Yesterday afternoon, via Facebook, I heard about a solidarity march, being organized by an autonomous group. The reason: Leah from the Red & Black Cafe was being imprisoned for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury. I didn’t personally know Leah, but philosophically I supported the stand she was taking against the Federal government’s witch-hunt, targeting activists.
So, I hit “share,” passing the invitation along.
I observed the march as it approached SE Hawthorne Blvd, via 35th Ave. Since I did not recognize the people in the march (it’s hard to recognize a black bloc, especially at night, without my glasses) — and since I myself wear very bright colors — I decided to watch while maintaining a distance. Technical difficulties prevented me from livestreaming, but I still wanted to be able to report the real story.
As the marchers took the east-bound lanes of Hawthorne, I watched a growing crowd of curious people, in regular attire, following the march along the sidewalk, and inquiring about this unexpected sight.
Then, I heard, rather than saw, the sound of glass shattering. Immediately, the disastrous anti-police brutality march of last February 6th came to mind, when Occupy Portland and an autonomous group mixed like oil & water. I expected to see marchers, locals, and lookie-loos arguing and fighting with one another over tactics, and the definition of “violence.”
But that’s not what I saw. I saw the windows of Umpqua Bank — a bank that tries to present a local image, but really isn’t — smashed. And to my astonishment, I saw regular people, watching from sidewalks & bars, cheering. I found myself no longer observing the march, so much as I was observing the people observing the march.
Smash. Wells Fargo. Smash. Chase Bank. Smash. US Bank. Cheers, each time, from regular people, watching. As I passed the tables outside of the Hawthorne Theater, across the street from the Chase Bank at SE Caesar Chavez & Hawthorne, I heard people laughing and talking about how much they hated that bank. One man stood up and yelled, “Yeah! Smash that up!”
The Walgreens, at Caesar Chavez Blvd. & Belmont, appeared to be the last target, before I lost sight of the march. I heard sirens in the distance, but as far as I could tell, the march had already dispersed, almost as quickly as it had begun.
Contrasted with the march from last February 6th, there was a noticeable lack of contention about the targets of this black bloc. The only contention that appeared to exist was in regard to some marchers dragging items like recycling bins & newspaper dispensers into the streets — ostensibly, to block traffic and slow a police response. Other people, not necessarily marchers themselves, quickly removed the items from the streets. The point ultimately was moot; police vehicles came from multiple directions, and were remarkably slow to arrive.
Local corporate media and Portland Police later reported that the marchers were also attacking passers-by with glass bottles. This is, in fact, not true.
To me, the story really wasn’t about the smashed windows. I headed back to Hawthorne, to put my ear to the ground.
People were still buzzing about what had just happened. Absent, was a sense of anger regarding the vandalism. It is curious, how astonishing the absence of something can be. Inner SE Portland is, after all, a sleepy urban community.
I stopped in at Nick’s Coney Island for a drink. Police arrived, and questioned the bartender. I asked her what that was all about, to which she replied, “Some protesters took one of our chairs and threw it through the Wells Fargo window.”
Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “That’s awesome.”
She leaned in, smiling, and replied, “I know! Fuck Wells Fargo.”
A comrade left this in my inbox. Squeoo has been following for quite a while and witnessed my ideological transformation.
We may live hundreds of miles apart but our struggle are similar and our goals, the same. If we work in integration, I don’t see how we can fail. The world is revolting and America is on the brink of a revolution. It won’t be long before mass demonstrations topple the bourgeoisie and power is restored to the people. Solidarity.
I’m never going to forget that experience. Just walked out of my house banging a pot, then everyone else on my block appeared at their balconies and doors doing the same thing, so we decided to go for a walk. Turns out everyone else in the neighbourhood was also banging their pots, so we all got together and walked around for a few hours. Finished the night with a few beers and some new friends.
This is what democracy looks like.
Again last night, Quebecers and people around the world showed their indignation for corruption, undemocratic practices, and debt slavery by joining their communities in a thunderous clanging of pots! In coordination with Occupy Wall Street and other groups, people in the US and Europe also started banging on pots.
Our traditional methods of communicating - through our media, our politics, our business - are corrupt and unusable, so we will get our message out with pots!
Let’s build a global movement!
Last year, the strength of Occupy Wall Street created the foundation for a continent-wide movement through the occupation of public squares and parks.
This spring, la Belle Province of Quebec has built the momentum, strength, and opportunity to be a launchpad for new North American occupations. Occupons Montréal was evicted from la Place du Peuple, but now we’re occupying our entire city on an epic and unimaginable scale. Real change is in the air.
Take advantage of our momentum! This is your chance!