More on Bangladesh: What’s Next?

garment

I’m sure  you have all been reading about the current factory protests in Bangladesh, but here are the basics of the current situation. Factory workers of Bangladesh are asking for a $100 monthly minimum wage, as compared to their current $38 monthly wage. The issue is that factory owners are finding it difficult to pay such a dramatic increase on worker’s wages because of their customers (large global brands). The owners are looking to these global brands as the cause of these issues, claiming these large brands are unwilling to pay more for their goods manufactured in Bangladesh. Currently, factories are unable to produce the goods these global brands have ordered due to the protests.

My question is: What’s next not just for Bangladesh, but for the United States? How will our economy be affected if the factory workers, factory owners, and global brands cannot come to a solution relatively soon? What does this mean for us as consumers? Is there anything we can do as consumers? Welcome for any thoughts!

by MacKenzie Cahoone

Extended reading: http://world.time.com/2013/09/23/bangladeshi-garment-workers-set-factories-ablaze-in-bid-for-higher-wages/ 

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “More on Bangladesh: What’s Next?”

  1. I think the use of factories in Bangaledesh by American companies is only going to become increasingly popular as time goes on. If these big companies such as Walmart continue to turn a blind eye to these sub-par working conditions, they could lose business as well as face legal trouble if their practices are exposed to the public. In a market as competitive as Walmart’s, it would be easy for American consumers to boycott their store and give their business to a similar retailer such as Target if they do not think their production methods are ethical.
    The CEO of Walmart is said to be the 17th most powerful person in 2012 according to Forbes.com. Someone with the monetary means an well as influence in the business world could make a positive change for Bangaledesh factories while keeping the prices of our textiles the same. If the higher-ups at Walmart care to uphold their reputation as a retailer that “cares”, they should consider the effects of the unsafe working conditions in these Bangaladesh factories. Fair wages and a safe working environment should be a no brainer for workers worldwide, not just in the United States.
    If no solution is met, these factory workers could protest by not showing up to work, hence leaving Walmart without textiles and apparel to fill their store. It would be in Walmart’s (and like companies) best interest to invest in safe factories in order to ensure low cost labor to make these textiles. If they choose to not acknowledge these conditions, they might be forced to bring textile and apparel production back to the United States. If they did this, they would not only have to have regulated factories, but they would have to pay each worker a much higher wage (our minimum wage) and also abide by our labor standards. This would increase the price of apparel for us, as well as slow the production rate.
    As consumers, we can only keep updated on the issues regarding these factories and make decisions as we see fit, ethically. If more Americans knew the truth about these factories, it could effect where they buy. As fashion students, we are the future of this industry and being knowledgeable on this topic could make way for change.

    1. I enjoy your very thoughtful comments, thank you! As you put it, retailers such as Walmart have to take a serious attitude toward the CRS issue. Actually they do, largely because of the pressures from the consumers. Factory owners also have their roles to play. If you read this article I posted on sakai a few days ealier: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/business/global/superficial-visits-and-trickery-undermine-foreign-factory-inspections.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
      When it becomes a “cat and mouse” game as described in the article, minimum positive changes will happen despite the efforts from the retailers. Again, I personally don’t think CRS will be a quick fix and tragedies as the case we read are very likely to happen somewhere in the world again and again. But the world community is not standing by and in a joint effort, I mean, the consumers, retailers, factory owners and the government all work together, I hope things are gradually improving. At least through the case study, students in the class now have realized the importance of the issue and you can influence more people, your friends, your family and the company you serve/own in the future

  2. While this is a matter of workers’ rights in Bangladesh, I think that the factory workers will be negatively impacted in the long run. The reason US retailers outsource to Bangladesh is because that is where the cheapest labor is. If the workers get their demanded pay raises, then the factories will be forced to raise their manufacturing prices, which would in turn translate into more expensive products in the US. Retailers outsource for cheaper prices, so this action may cause them to seek contractors elsewhere. This would mean less contracting to Bangladesh factories which could lead to many workers losing their jobs.

    As for the immediate effects in the United States, it becomes a matter of supply and demand. If those factories are unable to fill the orders, the supply of products to the US will decrease. Assuming the demand for said products remains the same, there will be a shortage of products in the US. To re-establish the equilibrium between supply and demand, the equilibrium price will be raised. For US consumers, this means paying higher prices for standard products. If consumers are unwilling to pay these higher prices, the retailers will suffer, along with the US economy. I guess that is the trouble with being so dependent with international factories.

    Many of my classmates are adamant that US consumers could make the difference in the problems with Bangladesh factories. I agree that if consumers boycotted products produced in inhumane environments, retailers would be forced to take action. However, call me a pessimist, but I have no such faith in the US consumer base. I do not believe that US consumers would be content to pay higher prices so that international workers could have higher wages and safer work environments. How would you feel if a $5 shirt from Walmart now cost $15? Think of the $20 H&M dresses that you love. Would you still be able to buy them if they cost $50? Maybe your answer is yes; however, there are many people with financial problems in the US who would say no. I don’t think that the majority of US consumers would be willing or able to adjust to these price raises.

  3. great comments~ I agree your viewpoints except the second paragraph. Remember in the class I mentioned that a problem faced by the global textile & apparel industry is over-supply, meaning too many countries can produce T&A and the total industry output far exceeds the total demand. And apparel products from different sources are substitutable (or “have negative price elasticity of substitution”). For example, if apparel sourced from Bangladesh is getting more expensive, retailers will consider moving to source products from other countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia or even Africa—you have a long list (you can read this blog: http://tmd433.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/apparel-production-bases-constantly-evolving/). The result is the total supply of apparel in the US market won’t decline and the retail price won’t go up either (especially given the fact that the prospect for the US economy is far from clear). So again, this is a very complicated issue with so many factors getting involved. To improve the situation (even not fully solve it) requires our knowledge, wisdom, creativity and a strong sense of responsibility. And our TMD/TM students have a critical role to play to contribute to the building of a better world~

  4. Intolerable working conditions have been going on for far too long in the textile and apparel industry. While tragedies spark reforms here and there, tremendous change is called for that has yet to come. Bangladeshi protests could led to change for good or bad. Large global brands could create the change needed, resulting in a positive outcome, or they could choose to buy from other factories. Leaving Bangladeshi factories could result in great job loss in the country and possibly even more horrible working conditions as workers are made even more desperate. Either shift in change would most likely increase product costs in America. Money toward improved wages and factory conditions would bring up costs, as well as sourcing to other, most likely more expensive factories, outside Bangladesh. I think consumers will have no choice but to pay more for new textile and apparel products in the near future. If protests continue, change will need to occur. Either solution, sourcing to different factories who are not protesting or improving conditions, takes money that will ultimately trickle down to the consumer. As consumers we will have to accept these changes. Conditions are not tolerable as they are now and changes creating additional cost will be needed. Alternative shopping choices, such as second hand clothing and discount clothing at places such as Marshalls, could help those unwilling to pay these additional costs.

    1. you raise a very good question about whether consumers have to pay more or not. I agree that an improvement of the working condition may lead to an increase of production cost which eventually could result in an increase of retail price. However, we can think about how did such thing happen at the very beginning. Because of the intense competition in the retail market, therefore, retailers have to lower down their selling price, then they push the factories for lower price and the factories in order to survive, violate the CRS rules. This pattern is called “race to the bottom” (you may read more from the “T-shirt” book). I don’t think in the current economic setting, retailers are wiling to increase their retail price too much…Because T&A is a buyer driven industry, it means the “resources” available to help the Bangladesh workers may be quite limited. The sad thing is, economic factors still dominate the progress of the issue in my personal view.

  5. I think that the workers in Bangladesh are doing the right thing by protesting and trying to get higher wages. Considering the conditions they work in, they should be getting paid more. Also, American consumers aren’t going to stop outsourcing from places like Bangladesh anytime soon and therefore, nothing is going to change unless these underprivileged workers do something about it. Considering the protests that are going on, I’m sure companies like Wal-Mart are a bit concerned considering they do a lot of their outsourcing from these Bangladesh factories. Wal-Mart may have to consider looking elsewhere. Maybe somewhere down the line when they realize looking elsewhere is going to become harder and harder they will produce their products in the US! If Wal-Mart wants to keep up with their reputation, they either need to help Bangladesh with changes or go elsewhere.

    Like Paige has said previously in her comment to this blog post, i think if more Americans knew about what was going on, outcomes would be different. There are many negatives going on with the textile and apparel industry right now, as well as positives. However, as being the future of the textile and apparel industry, the negatives need to be worked out if this industry wants to continue to strive.

  6. I agree that working conditions in Bangladesh need to change and that people are standing up for a change and thats a good thing but could take awhile for a resolution. I know some may think (and it was brought up in class) that the US can “afford” to increase production costs but we have to remember that there are parts of the US that are also earning low wages. Maybe not as low as Bangladesh but the reason companies like walmart outsource for low cost is because the consumer who is buying apparel in a walmart type environments can not afford higher quality/cost goods. I would like to see changes for conditions like Bangladesh but it seems this protest may just force the US to have to take business elsewhere until it is resolved.

  7. If factory workers aren’t paid more while making U.S garments they will continue to protest and maybe it will set back the production of U.S company garments. If they do not pay attention and fix the working conditions in Bangladesh these U.S company might face legal trouble. U.S companies such as Walmart should want to take action and fix the many problems where there clothing is being made. Therefore there is no bad name for their company because as this continues more and more people will become aware.
    The Economy will be affected because if the Bangladesh workers get the higher wages they insist, the U.S companies will have to raise their manufacturing prices. This means it will effect consumers in a negative way. Consumers will have to pay more for their products. If this happens to the U.S, products supplied to the U.S. will decrease.
    For consumers this means higher prices for products we have been purchasing at a constant price. If consumers see higher prices they might refuse to buy these products and the retailers will suffer. There will have to be alternative shopping choices made by the consumers and that is never what a retailer wants from loyal committed customers.

    1. I agree with you. I think that the U.S. companies should be responsible and make sure these workers in Bangladesh are treated fairly, in good working conditions, and they should get a pay increase. If this does not happen, these companies should have to face legal trouble. If all of these changes occur then the prices for the U.S consumers will increase but I don’t think it would increase too much. I’m sure that if 100 people had to pay 50 cents more on a T shirt that would insure a better fire code or alarm system. I also don’t think it should be the consumers who have to suffer for the companies negligence. I think these multimillion dollar U.S companies should offer up the money to insure safety for the Bangladesh workers.

  8. Even though factory workers aren’t paid more while making U.S. garments I do not think they will continue to protest for that long because those people making $38 monthly wages need the money. It is such a poor country and that is one of the few jobs available. If this protest does work for the Bangladesh workers and they receive higher wages, the U.S. economy will indeed be affected, but I do not think it will be a big deal for big companies such as Walmart. They make so much money already and although they will have raise their manufacturing prices I do not think they will have to raise their prices of their products to consumers. Consumers shop at Walmart for their cheap prices because they are known for that. Walmart would lose a lot of their consumers if they raised their prices to consumers. So although, they would have to raise their manufacturing prices I do not believe that they have to raise their prices to consumers.

  9. I think the protests in Bangladesh will continue to rise until they get what they want for the work they are doing with global brands. With collaboration in particular with the United States–since we are a developed country and do have the money, it only makes sense that these factory workers are feeling undermined. If the factory workers do not get what they want, there is a possibility they will stop producing products for the US. This will negatively affect the US economy. Whether the US finds a new place to produce T&A or assist in raising each of the factory workers monthly wages, US consumers will most likely have to pay more for finished products that were reasonably priced before. Unfortunately consumers are powerless when it comes to changing any outcome, unless we all take a conscience effort to figure out where everything we purchase is from and the conditions in which they were made. One option to stop horrible practices and any conflict globally would be to manufacture everything in the US. However, through majorly rule and liking, that option is really not all that plausible. Most people do not want these jobs, or the jobs are already replaced by innovations in technology. Also, by manufacturing in the US, prices will increase even more due to our relatively high minimum wages compared to those of the undeveloped countries. It’s like a domino effect- if one aspect fails, the rest will trickle down too.

  10. I’m happy to see that factory workers in Bangladesh are taking a stand. After being put through such harsh and dangerous working conditions where many have lost their lives, they most certainly deserve a raise. I believe if they continue to protest, factory owners may negotiate a higher wage but I doubt it will be raised to $100 a month. They claim that its too expensive of a raise to give because large global brands don’t pay enough in the first place for the manuf. of their goods. I believe if Bangladesh factory owners get desperate enough to get their employees back to work they will try to negotiate a smaller raise. If workers receive a higher wage, that in turn means global markets will be paying more as well as consumers. If protests continue with out a solution, global markets may do business elsewhere. After learning about the harsh conditions Bangladeshi factory workers are put through, my attitude towards certain retailers has changed. I no longer shop at retail stores who manufacture from Bangladesh or other developing countries because it supports the abuse these workers are put through. I’ve begun to appreciate higher quality apparel even though its more expensive.

  11. I find this to be a tricky subject but a very interesting one at that. I think it is a good thing that workers in Bangladesh are protesting and demanding $100 a month instead of $38 a month. Ultimately, they are being treated unfairly and underpaid. Can you imagine if a worker in the US got paid even $100 a month that would be horrible. I understand that it is a different country that is not as developed as ours so the situation is different, however, it is still unethical. I, like everyone else want to pay the cheapest price for my clothes, and with prices and the materials used so cheap now we have turned into a disposable society. We accept workers in Bangladesh being paid unfair wages so we can get our cheap clothes from H&M and in a few months time throw the clothes away when they are worn. The workers are standing up for themselves and refusing to produce the products for these large retailers until there needs are met. Ultimately, the problem comes from the US retailers and consumers not wanting to pay more for their products. We need to accept these conditions and pay a little more for our clothing so that the workers can lead slightly better lives. If we do not do this, more and more workers from underdeveloped countries will protest and no products will be made at all. Everyone wants to get their clothes for the cheapest possible price, but more than that I want people to be treated ethically.

  12. It’s about time these workers are standing up for themselves in Bangladesh. Working in such dangerous and treated poorly these workers deserve a raise. Working for $38 a month is not a lot all especially for the conditions they are working under. Getting a raise to $100 a month is better for these workers and it will help them support their family better. The raise seems to be a lot for the factory owners because the large global brands are unwilling to pay more for their manufactured goods.

  13. I think that the US factories overseas can expect these protests to continue. These large US companies are looking for the cheapest and fastest labor, which they cannot find here in the US. I think these workers are smart for protesting, they work in the worst conditions and the cheapest labor costs, its unfair and unethical. However Americans and American companies look for the cheap prices, if they raise labor costs, it raises costs on products, which may turn consumers away. These protests will continue, but will factories raise their labor wages? I think they should, they need their products made and these factories workers are the ones qualified for the jobs.

  14. After doing a case study about the Bangladesh fire and having read multiple of my classmates comments, I couldn’t help but completely agree with what Michelle David posted. She stated that, “If factory workers aren’t paid more while making U.S garments they will continue to protest and maybe it will set back the production of U.S company garments.” Along with not being paid more, if safety conditions and safety procedures aren’t fixed or changed after the incident at one of the bangladesh factories, the protesting will only continue to happen and the US will be in a predicament in terms of placing orders and importing. I think as a very globalized country, the United States truly wants to have good relations with oversea companies for importing and exporting needs. Although the factory workers of Bangladesh are requesting now $100 total a month verse $38, maybe there could be a medium of 65 or 70 dollars so that management and the factory workers see that change is happening!

  15. Although the change in wages is negatively affecting many of those involved, I think the fact that the factory workers are sticking up for themselves and demanding better wages is a really big step in the right direction. I also think that the fact that the factories are attempting to pay their workers the correct wages is a great step as well. What is disconcerting is that the large corporations are not stepping up to pay more so that their workers will have fair wages.
    I think for Bangladesh, the next step is to continue to demand that these large corporations pay more for their products and for the work that is being done for them. I think for the United States, the next step is to listen to what these workers are saying, and pay more for their services. Another option is for the United States to bring the work back to the states, and to open more textile and apparel factories here at home. This would also give many Americans jobs which would positively affect our unemployment rate.
    Our economy will continue to be negatively affected if these factory owners, workers, and global brands cannot come to an agreement. Our products will not be produced and our consumers will not be able to purchase and use them. The United States should pay up and work to make the overseas factories better, or we should bring the work back stateside.

  16. I am glad that Bangladesh factory workers are standing up for themselves and demanding fair wages and safer working environments. I feel as though many other countries, such as China, have workers enduring the same unfair treatment and are not doing anything about it. In the T-shirt book, it mentioned that factories look for and hire women with families with no other choice but to bear the conditions of these factories. The book mentioned a few characteristics factory owners look for such as ‘quiet’, ‘obedient’, and especially ‘docile’. The factory owners do not want to put themselves in a situation where an uprising or strike for fairer treatment may occur, like in Bangladesh.
    I agree with Paige when she mentions that without a consensus between factory workers and the companies, the workers have the right to protest and refuse to work until their demands are met. This incurs a domino effect reaching all the way back to American citizen’s closets. If the companies do not increase the pay of the workers, the garments will not be made, leading American consumers to shop elsewhere where they can find what they are looking for. Or, the companies can comply and increase the workers pay therefore causing the prices in the retail market. Leading to higher prices, U.S. consumers may be enticed to buy American made products to help stimulate the economy. through either scenario, changes are made to benefit someone somewhere, whether that be in America or Bangladesh. The Bangladesh factory workers are just the first ripple towards change.

  17. Unacceptable working conditions in foreign countries has been going on for years. Companies know what is going on in their factories overseas and do nothing about it. I haven’t heard anything positive on the news about what companies are trying to do to help, I only see the bad things that are happening to the factory workers. I think that in order to fix the working conditions and prevent protests like the one in Bangladesh, American companies need to send someone in and help these workers. Maybe if they weren’t feeling so used and abused they wouldn’t be asking for more money. If they feel like they are being fairly treated, they would just be happy to have a paying job. Obviously more and more companies are going to use Bangladesh to produce their products for cheap but they really need to take the people in to consideration and try to fix this problem before they do anything. I am actually proud that these factory workers are protesting such awful working conditions and asking for more money. I feel like if more and more workers do this then the companies will have no choice but to help them out. I’m sure its scary for them to keep seeing that more and more of their people are dying from their work and they don’t want it to happen to them.

  18. The factory workers will be negatively impacted in the end. The main reason why the U.S. outsources to Bangladesh is because they supply cheap labor. If the workers get what they want and get higher pay then this will result in more expensive labor. If the factories have to raise their prices then retailers will have no choice but to outsource from a cheaper place. In the end either the workers will lose their jobs from the U.S. outsourcing somewhere else or they will just have to settle for what they have now. After reading the T-shirt book I have learned that the “race to the bottom” is in a sense why there is a lot of competition in the retail market. Since consumers want low prices this effects the retailers and factories. Because of this competitive market retailers don’t really have a choice but to keep prices low. I think that for now the U.S. will continue to go where they can find the cheapest labor but I don’t think that is going to work for too much longer and in the long run consumers are just going to have to deal with higher prices.

  19. Firstly, I think it’s inspiring to see this oppressed group taking a stand for themselves. It’s no longer a dirty secret that these working conditions are present in the textile and apparel industry, quite a few people are aware of it. But I think we have a tendency to see these people as helpless and unaware that there are better options. The truth is however that in many developing countries, cultural differences allow for environments that force these workers to make a choice that sometimes jeopardizes their safety. These tragedies have inspired them to take a stand and demand better working conditions. Unfortunately, I think that these demands will have one of two effects caused by a domino effect. Better working conditions and wages would lead to an increase in production costs, which would either raise prices of imported products for US consumers, or cause retailers to find other options and inevitably lead to mass job loss in places like Bangladesh. Because the US is such a retail-based economy, I unfortunately think the latter would happen. Consumers may support ethical production, but unfortunately I think when it comes down to money, they’ll make the choice that benefits themselves (as cynical as that may sound).

  20. Bangladesh is seen as one of the countries with the most unhygenic and improper working conditions for their workers. It does not surprise me that the workers are trying to protest and earn higher wages because of these unbearable horrible conditions. I can see this becuase of the horrible conditions that they work under. Americans, however, will not stop outourcing and importing from places like this because nothing is going to change unless these uneducated and underprivaleged workers do something to change it. Companies like Wal-Mart, who do most of their outsorcing and importing from countries like Bangladesh will become a bit concerned and nervous for the outcome. Wal-mart and these companies should probably start to look in other places. The production will change and start to be more popular within the United States because it will be harder. Personally, I think that if more companies and consumers were aware of what was going on, then their would be other conclusions and outcomes. If this industry is looking to strive for the rest of their time then they will need to work out the negatives in the economy.

  21. For me it is difficult to believe that large manufacturers who use Bangladesh factories for their product will not pay workers higher wages. I think that is is outrageous to think that they won’t pay decent wages to the people who are making them all of their money. If workers earned $100 per month, they are still making less than American workers would be making. If factory workers, factory owners, and global brands cannot come to a solution, it would be interesting to see what happens to our company. Depending on the scale of the change, factory jobs could come back to workers in the United States if workers in Bangladesh refuse to produce product for global brands. This could fix some of the unemployment issue in the US, but as for our economy, I don’t think it would necessarily be a good thing. If the global brands cannot pay Bangladesh workers $100 per month, it is hard to believe that they would be paying American workers minimum wage to make their products. For us as consumers, prices of our everyday apparel and textile items will skyrocket. I’m not sure that there is anything that we could do as consumers other than spread awareness about the conditions in Bangladesh factories. Perhaps if we stop it sooner than later, global brands will choose to raise their workers’ wages.

  22. I feel that since the United States has the money they should be willing t pay more for labor instead of picking up and finding a new source of cheap labor. It is terrible to think about anyone trying to survive off of 100 dollars a month non the less 38 dollars a month. I cannot believe how long it has been going on and I do not think that it is fair for people to live like this. What is worse is that if workers continue to stop working until they receive a higher wage they will most likely lose their jobs altogether. The economy will be affect because we will not be able to pay so little for labor. This might benefit us in a way because it might make other countries willing to send materials back to the United States which will allow for a lot more jobs here in America. As consumers we are going to have to come to terms with the fact that we will have to start paying more for our textiles and apparel. We do not want the economy to move backwards because of the poor working conditions in places like Bangladesh especially because Americans are the reason for these conditions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s