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Critical Analysis of the Article May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror

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Thesis

In the article May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror (Chakravatty&Luce,2013), the authors explore the deplorable conditions of workers in Bangladesh garment factories who are poorly treated, overworked and under paid. It is acknowledged that governments and large foreign corporations need to do more to alleviate the harsh conditions of sweatshop workers where women make up the majority of the labour force. This connects to neoliberalism and Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) because underdeveloped countries like Bangladesh are dependent on developed nations like the U.S. for their economic growth. First, Walmart, one of the largest companies in the world, is focused on the pursuit of profits, and needs to do more to improve the working conditions of serf-like factory workers. Next, SAP implementation policies by governments in underdeveloped countries are simply not working anymore. Additionally, globalization and geographic factors are impeding improvements in the garment industry around the world. Governments and major corporations need to collaborate and implement stringent regulations to improve the working environment for Bangladeshi garment workers.

Neoliberal Imperialism and the Impact of Major Corporations on Bangladeshi Garment Workers

Major European and American corporations need to be more proactive to ameliorate the horrendous, slave-like conditions that exist in many Bangladesh garment factories. Clothes are produced at low cost and sold at market prices which results in significant profits for many popular retail brands. “But Walmart as a buyer does not discourage and may actively encourage, serf-like factory conditions” (Servant, 2006). Walmart consumers are removed from the realities of the garment workers’ conditions and are only concerned about the low cost of products. The neoliberal imperialism as displayed by Walmart and other large corporations where free market completion is encouraged and trade unions are discouraged (Chanaja, 2018) does nothing to improve the lives of garment workers.

As a result, many people in Bangladesh are banding together and fighting to improve working conditions. One woman, Kalpona Akter, gathers evidence from garment factory disasters. “The big European and American importers sometimes deny that their brands were sourced in that factory… So we need to get the logos, the actual proof, before Walmart and others can start to cover up” (Twitter 2013). Conditions in the factories are deplorable, “If you want to go to the toilet you have to get permission from the supervisor” (Twitter, 2013).

Oppressive working conditions are not restricted to financial suffering because of low wages. Female garment workers also suffer from severe depression and are subjected to Intimate Personal Violence (IPV) and Workplace Violence (WPV). In the factories, “verbal, physical and sexual abuse is common” (Parvin et al, 2018). Improved monitoring, working conditions, higher wages would help alleviate much of the needless suffering endured by women in the Bangladeshi workplaces. “Female garment workers’ experience of control by their husband leads to WPV and increased work related stress… which may exert extra strain on the workers. All of these eventually contribute to depression” (Parvin et al, 2018).

Walmart is a shrewd corporation. They anticipated the backlash to their irresponsibility and “… play down the facts about its subcontractors and boast of the groups’ social conscience” (Servant, 2006). A legal accord – an agreement that requires large companies to support factory improvements has for the most part been ignored by large corporations. “Most of the biggest US importers, like Walmart and Gap… have so far refused to sign the Accord, and instead are sponsoring a toothless, dishonest, window dressing substitute called the Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety” (Twitter, 2013). The Alliance is a weak substitute for the Accord. However, it suits Walmart’s neoliberal imperialist practices. The Alliance did little to improve Bangladeshi working conditions. “The Alliance will spend only a laughable $42 million to fix Bangladesh factories, a tiny percentage of what the Accord promises” (Twitter, 2013). According to Walmart’s Alliance report “93% of all remediation items identified have been completed” (Walmart, 2018). I believe the published report is biased and unreliable. For example, in the area of identifying fire safety hazards, the number was 2% before training, 45% after training” (Walmart 2018). Clearly, less than 50% is not a result Walmart should be proud of.

Walmart and other large corporations pretend to display a social conscience. However, with their neoliberal imperialist “belief in free markets, free trade and opposition to trade unions” (Chanaja, 2018) their half-hearted effort is mainly self-serving. The constant pursuit of profits is their main motivation.

Government Control and Structural Adjustment Programs

Through out the article of May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror (Chakravartty & Luce, 2013). The author mainly focused on blaming large European and American retailers for the suffering and hardships of Bangladeshi garment workers. However, they avoid the topic of what role of government should play in this situation. Regulations of buildings and workplace safety should be done by the government and laws instead of companies.

The cause of minimal regulation of government starts from the 1980s. During that time, smaller and less developed countries attended the Structural Adjustment Programs, known as SAPs, which is a set of economic rules that were inflicted on developing countries by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as a condition for receiving the loans (Chanaja, 2018). The purpose of this program is to improve a country’s investment by increasing trades between foreign countries and reducing government spending.

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Bangladesh was one of the first country which joined in this program but with conditions like exporting cheap products to fulfill western markets, dismantling public sectors and giving huge authority to large companies, these policies are slowly taking over developing countries like Bangladesh or Mexico. These are conditions that could only use for short-terms. Developing countries would depend on these policies which is now causing problems. They are now subsidiary countries that could no longer extricate from western countries’ control. In some ways, SAP is a new form of neoliberalism. With limited policy and control of the country, the government is not able to reenforce large companies to be regulated.

In the news report May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror, the author stated “The government has little incentive to disrupt this cozy relationship as the industry accounts for so much of its economy”.(Chakravartty & Luce, 2013). The reason of government depending or relying the garment industry is, because Bangladesh is dependent on this industry. Bangladesh did not have large manufacturing or technology factories to make other incomes. In this case, the government can no longer disturb or influence the action of garment companies. By agreeing on the SAF rules, countries would work as well as the western-countries expected.

Not only SAP, the free trade agreement also influence this issue. In 2000, when the agreement was arranged, factories from all around the world starts to be categorized and decided in to areas including sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.(Servant,2006)

With the fight back of the garment workers, trade unions and strikes were hold worldwide. The world starts to notice this issue and workers’ unfair treatment in the factories. However, Bangladesh’s government feared that garment factories will no longer make as much money as now. The government is now intimidating the workers joining in trade unions and exposing their situations (North, 2019). The government somehow did not choose their stand in a moral or an ethical position. In early November, the Bangladesh labor board did raise the standard wage to $68 a month but it is not effected yet (North, 2019).

Geographic

Even though government and neoliberalism are two main factors of how garment workers is in a desperate situation, the cause might also includes geographic reasons.

In Crewe’s reading, The ugly beautiful, he stated, that global companies in an increasingly borderless world have been able to use wage differentials in order to derive a competitive advantage (Crewe,2008). This indicates how globalization is happening no matter whether people noticed it or not. With globalization, we now have an international division of labor. This is about how each country plays their own role and fulfills the wants of the world together. Fro example, China and India is known for producing clothes and smaller goods, Mexico is known for their agriculture and Canada is producing lots of lamber. During the process of division, automatically countries are more likely to develop another industry because they are earning enough profit. Bangladesh is an example. They had been doing the garment industry for several decades, there is no way that they could stop and find another way to support their county.

One of the biggest reasons why develop countries reduce to built their factories in their own country is because of pf pollution. According to Crewe’s reading, making a pair of jeans includes tons of powdered pumice discarded in Tunis, indigo leaches into local streams that kills plants and fish, and Rotten cotton filed with insecticide and pesticide poisoning (Crewe,2008). This is a huge threat to people and the environment. Unfortunately, jeans are the most common commodity worldwide, its the symbol of women’s fashion which is already deep in our culture.

For countries like Bangladesh, pollution means less than wealth. They depend on this commodity to live and develop. Additionally, with limited laws and regulations of the government, companies would dump the polluted water and waste right in to the water. As mentioned in class, the relationship between consumers and sweatshop workers are indispensable. Products that we consumer encourage companies that is producing these items, which will finally lead to sweatshops.

Conclusion

Reference List

  1. Bair, J., & Werner, M. (2011). The Place of Disarticulations: Global Commodity Production in La Laguna, Mexico. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 43(5), 998–1015. DOI: 10.1068/a43404
  2. Crewe, L. (2008). Ugly beautiful?: Counting the cost of the global fashion industry. Ugly Beautiful?: Counting the Cost of the Global Fashion Industry, 25–33.
  3. Chanaja, P. (n.d.). Peter Chanaja. Retrieved from https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/glossary/structural-adjustment/.
  4. Chakravartty, P. (2013, May 3). May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh factory disaster and corporate terror. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion 2013/05/201351104516268273.html.
  5. Kuyumcuoglu, H. S. (2019). Sweatshops, Harm, and Interference: A Contractualist Approach.Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-019-04302-9
  6. North, J. (2015, June 29). Bangladeshi Garment Workers Fight Back. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/bangladeshi-garment-workers-fight-back/.
  7. Parvin, K., Mamun, M. A., Gibbs, A., Jewkes, R., & Naved, R. T. (2018). The pathways between female garment workers’ experience of violence and the development of depressive symptoms. Plos One, 13(11). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207485
  8. Servant, J. C. (2006, January). Slaves of the stacked shelves, pp. 1–4.
  9. Walmart, Our Commitment to the Workers of Bangladesh. (n.d.). Retrieved from https:// corporate.walmart.com/our-commitment-to-the-workers-of-bangladesh.

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Critical Analysis of the Article May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-the-article-may-day-reflecting-on-bangladesh-factory-disaster-and-corporate-terror/
“Critical Analysis of the Article May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-the-article-may-day-reflecting-on-bangladesh-factory-disaster-and-corporate-terror/
Critical Analysis of the Article May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-the-article-may-day-reflecting-on-bangladesh-factory-disaster-and-corporate-terror/> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
Critical Analysis of the Article May Day: Reflecting on Bangladesh Factory Disaster and Corporate Terror [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-the-article-may-day-reflecting-on-bangladesh-factory-disaster-and-corporate-terror/
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