Last month, I was invited to visit garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh with a delegation of New Yorkers that included Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, and Stuart Appelbaum, the head of the RWDSU (Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.)
More than 1,100 workers’ lives were lost in the collapse of Rana Plaza nearly eight months ago, making it the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry.
In a front-page story published just yesterday in The New York Times, reporter Jim Yardley wrote how “inside the single room he shares with his wife and young child, Hasan Mahmud Forkan does not sleep easily. Some nights he hears the screams of the garment workers he tried to rescue from the wreckage of the RanaPlaza factory building. Or he dreams the bed itself is collapsing, sucking him down into a bottomless void.
The delegation I traveled with met with surviving workers of the Rana Plaza factory collapse with experiences similar to those of Mr. Forkan as well as with family members of those who perished, labor leaders and retailers tied to the factory.
As I told a Catholic New York reporter, our delegation’s trip was intended to meet with the various sectors involved in the garment industry, the workers themselves, organizers, brand names and government officials to learn about what was going on. RanaPlaza survivors and family members of the workers killed had a number of concerns including reforming building and work space conditions along with receiving adequate compensation for the disabilities and loss of life caused by the disasters along from the disaster.
Those living after the collapse still struggle to make ends meet. Even though the Bangladeshi government, local associations and overseas retailers provided short-term compensation to survivors and loved ones, many still require financial support.