Do You Think Walmart is Unfair to it's employees?
Walmart Supplier Supports Torture, False Imprisonment of Labor Activists
byAmanda Kloer· May 10, 2011
A Walmart supplier in Bangladesh is going to great lengths to ensure that Bangladeshi workers aren't paid more than the meager $43 per month they receive now. The supplier has filed false criminal charges against Bangladeshi labor rights activists who are fighting for the basic safety and fair treatment of the people who make clothes for Walmart. And now, these activists are facing torture, false imprisonment, and even the death penalty for their support of workers' rights.
Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter, and Aminul Islam are three leaders of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), which fights for the rights of workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Walmart is the largest buyer of Bangladeshi-made clothing, and many of the suppliers in the country sell huge portions of their clothing to Walmart. But in order to maximize profits and sell to Walmart more cheaply than their competitors, these suppliers fight to keep the costs of production (ie, workers' wages and conditions) as low as possible.
But recently, one Walmart supplier went way too far by fabricating criminal charges against Kalpona, Babul, and Aminul. They have been charged with crimes punishable by anywhere between three months to life in prison, or even the death penalty in two of the cases. These false charges resulted in the labor activists being imprisoned, where they were tortured and threatened. Now out on bail, they await trial.
The claims of their "crimes" are not just outrageous, they're ridiculous. One of the cases alleges that Kalpona & Babul destroyed property of a major Walmart supplier, despite multiple witnesses placing them at an all-day meeting 35 kilometers away from the incident. Kalpona even communicated via phone with a Walmart representative at the meeting. And when she received news that a shopping complex was attacked by a mob, she called the Walmart representatives in the area to inquire about their safety. Despite air-tight alibis, Kalpona and Babul face criminal charges that could result in the death penalty.
Three of these cases are filed under the Speedy Tribunal Act; the tribunal is scheduled to begin in June, and must then be concluded within 60 days. That's why the International Labor Rights Forum, along with human rights advocates and shoppers around the country, are asking Walmart to instruct their subcontractor to drop these false charges, make a public statement that they will not stand for intimidation of labor rights leaders, and ask that the NGO status of the BCWS be re-instated.
It's imperative that Walmart take this action by May 31st, before the tribunal is set in motion. Walmart cannot stand by while its supplier seeks the death penalty against peaceful Bangladeshis advocating for the basic rights of workers. And they cannot stand for torture in the name of cheap clothing.
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