Queens, US (BBN)-They shouldn’t die in vain.
American retailers need to make Bangladeshi factories safer, Queens-based and national union leaders are demanding on the approaching anniversary of the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry, reports nydailynews.com.
“It happened a year ago, but people are still suffering,” said Maf Uddin, president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labour, speaking of the Rana Plaza factory building collapse.
“By remembering them on the anniversary, we are asking those who have the power, those who can make a difference, who can change the working conditions, to help,” the Bangladesh-born Uddin said. “Change will happen only if they come forward.”
At least 1,127 people died in the tragedy last April 24 and more than 2,500 others were injured in the eight-story complex located outside the sprawling capital of Dhaka.
“I met mothers who lost their children. I saw people who lost limbs,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who traveled to Bangladesh in December and paid his respects to families of the victims.
“It’s hard to put into words your feelings when you see what happens as a result of a lack of respect for workers’ safety.”
The shoddy building, which developed cracks a day before the collapse, was not built to handle heavy machinery, authorities said.
The companies ignored inspectors’ orders to have their workers evacuate.
Uddin, 69, of Jamaica — whose distant cousin was pulled from the rubble 24 hours after the collapse — said survivors are still reeling from the disaster.
“People in New York City only watched it on TV. But back home, almost every village had someone affected,” said Uddin, whose siblings live in Bangladesh.
“They’re not getting any real help. It has to come from us, around the world.”
People make their way pass the garment factory building that collapsed Wednesday, in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, April 27, 2013. Police in Bangladesh took five people into custody in connection with the collapse of a shoddily-constructed building this week, as rescue workers pulled 19 survivors out of the rubble on Saturday and vowed to continue as long as necessary to find others despite fading hopes.
Nearly 30,000 — or 60 percent— of the city’s Bangladeshi population in 2011 lived in Queens, according to the Asian American Federation.
The South Asian country is the world’s second largest producer of garments behind China.
Bangladeshis will light a candle for the fallen during a vigil Thursday in Jamaica. They will also call on major US retailers to use their clout and help improve conditions at the facilities that make their products in Bangladesh.
“The factory collapse was a horrific tragedy caused by the deplorable working and safety conditions that exist at the garment plants in Bangladesh,” said Rep Grace Meng (D-Flushing), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
After Meng met Reba Sikder — a 19-year-old garment worker who was buried under debris for two days before she was rescued — she penned missives to Wal-Mart, Gap and the American Apparel & Footwear Association urging executives to protect their subcontracted workers in Bangladesh.
Sikder fell from the third to the first floor and was crushed under a sewing machine, Meng said.
She suffered a broken ankle and a deep cut to her neck.
“If they didn’t work, they wouldn’t have a job. They went to work and many of them didn’t come back,” Appelbaum said, recalling horror stories he heard overseas.
“What do you say when you sit with a mother who shows you a picture of her daughter who is never coming back?