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8 US legislators urge AAFA to support BD RMG workers’ fair wage demand

Published : Wednesday, 20 December, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 228

Eight US Congress members have urged the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) urging support for fairer wages and the safeguarding of labour rights for Bangladeshi workers as they think that the minimum wage set for Bangladeshs garment workers is not enough.

The congress members said this in a letter to Stephen Lamar, President and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) dated 15 December.

"We are writing to urge the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) to strongly support the demands of Bangladeshs garment workers for fairer wages," the lawmakers wrote. They said the authorities reluctance to support a living wage of Tk 23,000 is not only disheartening but also shameful.

The signatories, comprising Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Reps Raúl Grijalva, Barbara Lee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Trone, and Susan Wild, collectively emphasised the need for AAFAs robust backing for fair compensation among Bangladeshs RMG workforce.

"We are writing to urge the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) to strongly support the demands of Bangladeshs garment workers for fairer wages. Due to their significant presence and operational leverage in Bangladesh, we believe that AAFA member companies are strongly positioned to support workers petitions for livable wages and to vocally champion their labour rights in a key country for the global apparel industry," the congress members wrote.

The US congress members said, "The recent wage increases announced by Bangladeshs wage board, which would not even meet the rising cost of living, have led to extended mass protests. Police have responded with violence against protesters and trade union leaders, resulting in at least four deaths, numerous injuries, and a wave of unjust arrests, detentions, and indefinite factory shutdowns."

The congress members made an 8-point demand to AAFA that includes:
Call for an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by police and other security forces against workers;  Pressure the government and garment manufacturers of Bangladesh to improve the wage setting; process and accept workers minimum demand of $208 per month to align with the real cost of living; Commit to maintaining a long-term sourcing relationship with your suppliers and to increasing your purchasing prices to fully absorb the additional labor costs; Foster transparency and accountability in the business operations and supply chains of member companies to safeguard labour and human rights, including the right to freedom of association; Instruct your suppliers to promptly withdraw or to dismiss any false criminal cases filed against workers and union leaders; Warn your suppliers to stop filing criminal cases against workers, and make clear that the dismissal, blacklisting, or other harassment of workers and union leaders is unacceptable and will influence your sourcing decisions; Call on Bangladeshi authorities to stop arresting workers and union leaders in response to wage protests and to immediately release innocent detained individuals and, Use your considerable leverage with individual factory owners and industry associations to ensure that workers are paid in spite of recent factory closures.

The congress members in the letter also wrote, "Brands with factories in the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) sector should note that EPZs have their own Minimum Wage Board, which has just recently been constituted. Brand engagement can play a critical role in ensuring that the EPZ wage setting process does not follow the same disastrous and unfair path as in the garment sector outside the zones. There is still a chance for a better outcome that will not trap EPZ workers in poverty for another 5 years."

"We urge you to help stop the exploitation against the Bangladeshi workers who have fueled the growth and profit of your businesses, and in support of the democratic, inclusive values that we cherish as a nation," added the letter.

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