Tag Archives: DRUM

Dromm, DRUM lead rally after Bangladesh factory fire


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

With his handheld camcorder, Gulam Sarwar Harum swept through the chanting crowd, capturing their faces and voices as they bellowed for the workers who perished in a fire in a Bangladesh factory.

“Workers’ rights and human rights! Workers’ rights and human rights!” they yelled, waving homemade signs etched with English and Bengali cries for justice.

“We feel that they are a part of us,” said Sarwar Harum, a member of advocacy group Desis Rising up and Moving (DRUM). “We have to speak on behalf of them.”

South Asian immigrant workers, representatives of DRUM and Councilmember Daniel Dromm rallied at the Jackson Heights Plaza to demand corporate accountability among major American companies that subcontract product assembly to workers overseas. Tensions peaked several weeks ago after a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory that yields merchandise for retailers like Walmart, Sears and Disney claimed 114 lives.

“Workers lost their lives for profit so some organization could make money,” said Fahd Ahmed, DRUM’s Legal and Policy Director at the gathering on Thursday, December 6.

Speakers called for an independent and transparent investigation into the cause of the fire as well as full and fair compensation to workers who were injured and reparations made to the families of the deceased. The group hopes other American brands will become aware of the dangers of unethically sourced goods — and that the human toll is far greater than the money saved by the companies.

Dromm, whose district contains a large Bangladeshi population, believes it’s important for issues abroad to impact stateside, as the corporations involved are based in the United States.

“It’s an American company that really is at fault for this fire,” said Dromm. “It’s the corporate greed of a company like Walmart that allows substandard-type conditions to exist in those companies that they contract out to.”

According to Dromm, the factory, which made girls’ shorts, could have provided better conditions for their workers if brands were willing to raise the price of their items by just a small amount — allowing employees to operate in healthier, safer environments and earn more than the average Bangladeshi salary of $37 a month. Dromm said the retailer’s desire to remain competitive among their price bracket rather than use ethical methods to source their merchandise was “unconscionable” and the reason Walmart and companies like it will struggle to establish stores in New York City.

“Walmart will never get into New York City,” said Dromm. “I will fight them to the very end.”

South Asians step up for workers’ rights


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Desis Rising Up & Moving

Low-wage South Asian workers in the city are suffering from human rights violations at their workplaces through discrimination, according to a new study.

The report, which is the first ever to focus on Asian immigrant workers, is the result of about 200 surveys conducted by Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) and the Community Development Project (CDP) at the Urban Justice Center.

The findings were released at a press conference in DRUM’s office in Jackson Heights on July 18, and found that employees are consistently underpaid, earn less that industry averages, and experience harassment while working in hazardous conditions.

“It is distressing to learn that in this day and age employers are still not paying workers or are paying them below minimum wage,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who is chair of the Immigration Committee.

After the conference, workers went out to the streets to drum up support with postcard signatures.

“I categorically state that we will not tolerate these crimes,” Dromm said. “In all work there is dignity. Workers must be treated with respect.”

The report highlighted that more than half of all survey respondents make less than minimum wage, and respondents make, on average, $5.03 less — sometimes as high as $16.43 less ­­— than the average New Yorker in the same occupation.

Two-thirds of domestic workers surveyed said they are not allowed to take breaks, while 95 percent have no health insurance and 75 percent can’t take any paid sick days. Also, one in five survey respondents reported workplace harassment.

DRUM officials say one of the reasons for the discriminatory treatment is because many of the laborers are illegal immigrants.

“Sometimes the employers blackmail us because we do not have papers, saying ‘If you do something I will call immigration,’” said a Bangladeshi retail worker at the conference.

South Asians comprise approximately 23 percent of the undocumented immigrant population in the city. With the new research they are poised to step forward to fight for rights.

DRUM plans to use stats from this report to foster South Asian workers’ rights locally, nationally and globally. Later this year, the organization plans to launch the Global South Asian Migrant Workers Alliance to bring together undocumented laborers from around the globe.

“As one of the fastest growing communities and one of the most targeted after 9/11, South Asian immigrant workers are speaking out to join a growing call for respect for labor and human rights,” Maulik said.