Statement in Support of GWTU
We, the Graduate Employees Organization at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign IFT/AFT Local 6300 AFL-CIO, condemn the January 31 attack against struggling Bangladeshi garments workers outside the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) building in Dhaka. The attack was a culmination of events starting with the shutting down of Ashiana Garments Factory where workers decided to unionize. In the attack, at least 20 workers were injured. Following the attack, the workers tried to file a complaint but the local police refused to take their statement. Instead, BGMEA filed charges against Garments Workers Trade Union (GWTU) leaders, some of who were not present at the protest. BGMEA accused them of attempted murder and vandalism. On April 1, when requesting a court extension of their bail GWTU leaders Joly Talukder, KM Mintu, Monjur Moin, Jalal Howladar, Lutfar Rahman, Md Shahjahan among others were detained. As of now, they are all in custody at Dhaka Central Jail.
We admire and take inspiration from the long-running struggle of Bangladeshi garments workers for increased wages, better working and living conditions, and protection of workers’ rights. In solidarity with Bangladeshi garments workers, we echo their demands. We denounce the BGMEA for pressing false charges against workers and union leaders, and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the arrested workers and union leaders. Instead of holding responsible parties accountable, the current charges only silence and obstruct workers’ organizing for a higher minimum wage. We demand that the police take workers’ statements and hold all responsible parties accountable for the attack. We demand that all fired workers are reinstated in their workplaces without an exception. We further reiterate the demands for increased wages, safety, and substantial rights that the workers have long been fighting for.
We understand that workers’ rights can be secured only if workers have the right to organize and join unions. We demand that the right to unionize and form trade unions in all garments factories, including Ashiana Garments Factory in this case, without any threat or harm be respected and secured.