Senior U.S. lawmakers this week called on the prime minister of Bangladesh to address unfair labor practices and violence against union activists in the country's garment industry. The Bangladeshi minister of commerce and the head of the nation's garment industry have recently called for the criminal prosecution of a union leader for sharing information with the U.S. Congress about a particular case of anti-union violence and harassment of garment workers.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, six members of Congress--including the senior Democratic members of the House committees on Education and the Workforce, Foreign Relations, and Ways and Means, along with the co-chair of the House Congressional Bangladesh Caucus--expressed "grave concern" about violations of workers' rights in Bangladesh's readymade garment industry, and the response from some government and industry officials.
"It is in our shared interests to see your country's garment industry succeed and for Bangladesh to become more prosperous as it advances as a middle-income country. Workers' rights to organize will play an important role in this process," wrote Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). "We look to your government to create an environment where workers, factory owners, local police and the ministries will all come together to support Bangladeshi workers' rights to freedom of association free from discrimination and reprisal. Public statements to the contrary by government and industry officials are not only inappropriate, they send signals that are unhelpful to our common goals."