The struggle of garment workers at Dragon Sweater (Dhaka, Bangladesh) for full wages and serverance pay continues. So do solidarity activities at brands that profited from the exploitation of exactly those workers.
In the focus is also the brand New Yorker. Until 2019 they profited from the workers at Dragon Sweater. Therefore people rallied in front of a New Yorker store in Hamburg for the third time already (1, 2).
The store management was not amused and confirmed to inform the headquater in Braunschweig (Germany).
1994: Dragon Sweater and Spinning Limited incorporated as a private limited company in Bangladesh. This is the period when many of the current experienced workers entered the workforce.
2012: Dragon Sweater becomes a public limited company with shareholders.
February/ March 2020: Dragon Group management in contravention of Bangladesh Labor Law, illegally lays off majority of workers, citing ‘economic losses’ from the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason. Management terminated the workers’ without compensating years of back pay and benefits.
Sidenote: Vast majority of workers were organized in the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) by then. One might suppose that union busting was a driving force behind the owners decsion to lay-off almost everyone.
March 2020: The Dragon Sweater workers start demonstrating at the factory in Malibag and in front of National Press Club to press home their demands.
June 2020: The textile workers lay siege to the Labor Ministry in support of their demands. There is also a siege of the Prime Ministers office in conjunction with workers from other factories agitating for their wages and benefits.
Dragon Sweater management reaches out to ICL and Global May Day. ICL and GWTUC responded.
June/ July 2020: FAU Hamburg, FAU Freiburg as well as IWW Bristol, IWW Hamburg and other international comrades hold solidarity demonstrations in support of the Dragon workers. Also in Dhaka workers rallied again.
July 2020: New Yorker contacts FAU Hamburg and GWTUC saying that under these circumstances they will blacklist Dragon Sweater. BUT we are still waiting for a public statement!
No proper feedback from Walmart nor Lidl (yet).
Labor union FOB (Brazil) joins the movement.
ICL working group Asia together with GWTUC and IWW Ireland decide to call for a Global Month of Solidarity with workers at Dragon Sweater! The idea of #UnitedAgainstTheDragon is born.
August 2020: The ongoing movement pressures the factory owners to resume negotiations. Workers representatives, owners, and the government sit for ongoing tripartite negotiations. However, the owners still continue to stall proceedings and deny workers their legally-owed arrears.
Textile workers thank comrades on the international level for their solidarity efforts.
At the end of August workers rally and block the Labor Ministry.
August/September 2020: The Global Month of Solidarity ends with actions in over 30 cities worldwide.
September 2020: Media in Bangladesh starts to report about the solidarity movement on the international level.
In Dhaka workers attempt to lay siege to residency of factory owner.
In mid-September negotiations break down and workers take to the streets and lay siege to the Labor Ministry once again.
October 2020: Hired goons attack protesting workers; 12 workers had to be treated in hospital. In reaction a solidarity statement was published.
On October 12th an agreement was signed by the workers, factory owners and government representatives! In includes that the factory owners pay 50 percent of the total amount owed to the workers in four installments on four different days. The first installment is scheduled to be paid on November 7th. As part of the deal workers also agreed to not stage any more protests related to this conflict in Dhaka and around the world. To uphold the pressure an open letter was sent to Dragon Sweater/Dragon Group nonetheless.
November 2020: The factory owners break the agreement. They didn’t pay. Therefore the textile workers begin to rally again. A week later they blocked the Labor Ministry for several hours with the factory owner inside.
The GWTUC attempts to support hundreds of affected textile workers with a daily warm meal and basic medical supplies. For them to be able to continue those efforts a fundraising campaign was initiated aiming to collect 20 000€ by the end of the year.
So called Black Friday was used as a day of action in solidarity with the textile workers and against excessive consumerism. Most actions took place at New Yorker stores. Reports from 11 cities were submitted.
Dezember 2020: After months of protests and international solidarity actions the owners of two big garment factories finally pay owed wages and severance payments.
January 2021: A letter of acknowledgement was sent by the GWTUC.
More than 18 000€ were collected during the fundraising campaign (more than 9 000€ through the gofundme platform and another 9 000€ directly on the FAU Hamburg bank account). To reach the goal of 20 000€ the deadline was extended until the end of January.
A first distribution of basic necessities to more than 500 workers will take place January 24 – 27th, 2021.
A more extensive report on this will be published soon.
The struggle of workers at Dragon Sweater factory reached Freiburg (Germany). This report was submitted July 18th, 2020.
Solidarity Action with Dragon Sweater Workers in Freiburg (Germany)
Around 20 people gathered in Freiburg (Germany) for a solidarity action with the struggle of garment workers of dragon sweater factory in Dhaka. The protest took place in front of a „New Yorker” store, which sell the clothes produced by dragon sweater. Members of anarcho-syndicalist union FAU, feminist organisations and socialist party „Die Linke” demanded the management of New Yorker to force their buisnesspartner dragon sweater to pay & rehire the workers, and also to respect the right to unionize.
Long live international solidarity of the working class!
Following some more research we can confirm, that workers at Dragon Sweater produced for retailers such as New Yorker, Lidl and Walmart in huge numbers in 2019. Therefore they were one of the last major profiteers before closure of the factory in March 2020.
All 6.000 workers are still waiting to receive their full wages, bonuses and compensation payments.
Following the call for solidarity released by the Garment Workers’ Trade Union Center (GWTUC) various activities took place so far, e.g. pickets by IWW Bristol, rallies by garment workers in Dhaka, correspondence with the factory management.
The Free Workers’ Union (FAU) in Hamburg focussed its activities particularly on New Yorker. They contacted the headquarter in Braunschweig (Germany) asking them to increase the pressure on the Dragon Group and get directly in touch with GWTUC. Furthermore a rally was held in front of a store within the city center of Hamburg.
In reaction they did get in touch with the GWTUC within a few days saying that New Yorker will blacklist Dragon Sweater. The brand also responded to the email sent by the FAU Hamburg saying that under the current circumstances Dragon Group as a whole disqualified itself from any future collaboration with New Yorker.
Außerdem wird auch der für die damalige Zusammenarbeit zuständige Lieferant mit einbezogen. Dies erfolgt sowohl um den Sachverhalt weiter zu durchdringen, wie auch um im Rahmen unserer Möglichkeiten, Einfluss auf Dragon Group zu nehmen, möglichen Pflichten nachzukommen. Der Einfluss besteht vorrangig darin, der Dragon Group deutlich zu machen, dass eine weitere Zusammenarbeit unter solchen Umständen nicht in Frage kommt. Unser oben erwähnter Lieferant hat sich zudem bereits vertraglich verpflichtet, keine weitere Produktion unserer Ware dort zu beauftragen.Excerpt from the email sent by New Yorker to FAU Hamburg (July 8th, 2020)
[…] Damit Sie über den Fortgang informiert sind, werden wir Herrn Sadaat Mahmood bitten, direkt über die Ergebnisse zu informieren.
Außerdem werden wir uns erlauben, weiterhin mit GWTUC in Kontakt zu bleiben, um bestmögliche Informationen zu solchen Themen zu erhalten.
In the last paragraph New Yorker confirms to stay in touch with GWTUC. Furthermore they write that they will ask Sadaat (GWTUC) to keep the FAU Hamburg informed on developments. Well, they could have skipped that part, because there is a stable level of communication between those two labor unions. Therefore we also know that since then nothing happened. During that single phone call between New Yorker and GWTUC in the beginning of July, Sadaat asked New Yorker to release a public statement denouncing the behaviour of Dragon Sweater. The person working for New Yorker in Bangladesh confirmed that he will forward all the information provided by Sadaat to the management and that a statement from the brand is to be expected. The phone call took place on July 7th. But since then nothing happened, although GWTUC tried to reach out to New Yorker again several times.
Therefore we keep expecting a statement from New Yorker publicly denouncing how Dragon Sweater is treating the workers and demanding them to pay their due wages, bonuses and compensation payments!
The struggle continues – focussing on Dragon Sweater, New Yorker, Lidl and Walmart!
Various labor unions such as the CNT (Spain), FORA (Argentina), FOB (Brazil) and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Ireland already confirmed to join the fight.