More than two dozen individuals gathered in the chilly darkness of Harvard Square late Saturday afternoon in remembrance of the 112 workers who died in a factory fire outside Dhaka, Bangladesh on November 25th. The factory, Tazreen Fashions Ltd., made clothes for Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney, among other major brands. In the aftermath, local fire officials determined the building had an inadequate number of exits. “So the workers could not come out when the fire engulfed the building,” said Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, the operations director for the Fire Department, according to The Associated Press.
The anti-sweatshop advocacy group Clean Clothes Campaign has documented the deaths of more than 500 Bangladeshi workers in factory fires since 2006. Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of clothing after China.
Activists in Harvard Square combined their memorial with a solidarity rally. For the past few days Bangladeshi workers have been protesting outside the burnt shell of Tazreen Fashions Ltd., demanding better worker conditions. The activists in Harvard Square held signs and items of clothing emblazoned with messages meant to bring home the costs of “cheap” clothes. “112 Bangladeshi workers = 112 human lives,” read one sign. “Wal-Mart is cheap? Ask Bangladeshi workers,” read another. Also: “We stand with the families of Tazreen workers.” One young man passed out flyers that drew attention to the particularly reprehensible behavior of the clothing company Gap and asked sympathetic passers-by to send a letter demanding that Gap help protect sweatshop workers’ lives.