In the News

Labor leader from Bangladesh brings case to Providence

The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — A small group of workers’-rights advocates chomped on pizza and engaged in lively conversation Saturday afternoon, just before a 38-year-old Bangladeshi labor leader attracted their attention.

The organizer, Babul Akhter, had the ashen expression of a man who faces a death sentence.

His story was about his own plight and also about the suffering of Bangladeshi garment workers, including hundreds who have been burned alive in factory fires over the past four years....

NYU's Oxfam advocates against Wal-Mart with employee speaker tour

Washington Square News


In a room bound by silence, the voice of one woman in NYU's philosophy building reached a stunned audience with the help of an interpreter.

"My name is Aleya. I come from Bangladesh," said Aleya Akter, a sewing machine operator in a Bangladeshi factory. "I've been working for Wal-Mart since 1994. When I started I used to get $7 per month for 208-hour work and now I get about $80 a month for 26 days a month. I was working 14 hours in a row and sometimes up to 3 a.m. shifts."

Workers detail conditions of overseas factory jobs

The Delaware County Daily News

SWARTHMORE — Even as 33-year-old Kalpona Akter faces a potential death sentence in her home country of Bangladesh, she traveled halfway across the globe to talk about the working conditions in her homeland with the hope of creating an atmosphere of respect, dignity and a better life for her fellow citizens.

Aleya Akter, 26, journeyed with Kalpona to tell the tale of working 14 years of 11-hour days sewing jackets with 400 employees at a Dhaka factory for Walmart.

NYC unfairly biased against Wal-Mart?

Metro New York


New Yorkers’ fierce fight to prevent Wal-Mart from setting up shop in the city is well-known. But meanwhile, other big-box stores are quietly opening without a murmur of protest, like an Aldi store that launched in Rego Park, Queens, in February.

“People say that somehow New York City should erect a wall against Wal-Mart,” said Greg David, director of the business and economics reporting program at the City University of New York. “But Home Depot, Target, Kohl’s, the warehouse stores, now Aldi, are in important ways just like Wal-Mart.”

Stolen Wages and Death Sentences: Stories from the Wal-Mart Worker Tour

In These Times

Cynthia Murray and Robert Hines Jr. thought they had seen unfair treatment and bad working conditions at the Maryland Wal-Mart store and Chicago-area Wal-Mart warehouse where they worked, respectively. But they were floored to learn recently of the conditions workers in Bangladesh and other developing countries endure in the factories that produce goods for Wal-Mart.

Debating the 'Global Sweatshop'

Women's Wear Daily

NEW YORK — Tragic as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was, the most definitive moment of Thursday’s all-day symposium honoring its centennial was an impromptu exercise that reminded guests just how far removed they are from the factories that produce the clothes they wear.

Century after historic fire, focus is on worker safety

Houston Chronicle

On March 25, 1911, 146 workers died in the flames of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the largest blouse manufacturer in New York City. Locked doors trapped workers on the ninth floor, exposing them to fire and smoke. Some tried to escape on the narrow fire escape, but it collapsed. Many others jumped out of windows. All but 23 of the dead were women, most were young mothers, and some were children. All were immigrants in search of a better life. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 but led to labor reform. A century later, has America forgotten its lessons?



That indignity, and the crowded and unsanitary factory floor, led many of the 400 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers to go on strike in 1909 as they began to claim their rights to respect, better wages and safer working conditions. They won concessions on pay, but little else from the factory owners, who kept the workplace in a shambles.

And the doors locked.