On the afternoon of August 2, 2014, I walked into Hossain Market, one of the many nondescript multistoried buildings lining the commercial thoroughfare in Uttor Badda, Dhaka. I had gone to show solidarity with hunger-striking garment workers of the Toba Group, three of whose units were housed in the building. Since July 28, several hundred workers had occupied the upper floors, demanding payment of three months back wages, overtime, and a festival bonus. The market entrance looked deserted, not exactly the hotbed of industrial action I'd expected. "Is this where the strike is?" I asked no one in particular. A couple of young women immediately escorted me up several flights of stairs - past the inevitable collapsible gates and oversized padlocks adorning each floor. On the seventh floor landing, young student volunteers were buzzing around a media and communications desk they had set up. Inside, I found half a dozen workers sprawled across cutting tables and makeshift beds, being administered saline by a medical team provided by a well-known health rights NGO. Hundreds of others, mostly women but also some men, milled across the room. Before I could speak to the workers, Shahidul Islam Shabuj, a labor organizer and sometime acquaintance, spied me from a distance and whisked me away to the top floor for an audience with Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garment Workers Unity Forum and the prime mover behind the "fast unto death." For Shabuj, my presence was fortuitous - an opportunity to get the workers' formal message out.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management