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Pittsburgh Push for the immediate release of Kalpona Akter

Sign the National Labor Committee’s petition demanding that apparel licensers step and facilitate an agreement that results in Bangladeshi workers be paid 41 cents an hour - link.

Sign the SweatFree Communities petition demanding the immediate release of Kalpona Akter - link.

YES! We need you to talk about sweatshop on Roberto Clemente Bridge on Saturday August 21! See you there at 5 PM.

YES! We need help following up on every aspect of the letter to Pittsburgh City Council posted below:

Kenneth Miller
Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance
c/o Thomas Merton Center
5129 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15224


August 16, 2010

Members of Pittsburgh City Council,

Kalpona Akter, who presented her testimony to you at a Public Hearing facilitated by City Council President Darlene Harris on April 28, 2010, was arrested by Bangladesh Security Forces on August 13. She is currently being held in an undisclosed location, facing interrogation and we have every reason to be concerned about her physical safety at the hands of those authorities.

Kalpoona Akter's testimony in Pittsburgh was specific to factories owned by “American Needle” a company that manufactures Pittsburgh Pirates “Cooperstown Collection” baseball caps. About those factories, she said that workers were deprived of legally mandated documentation of their employment and maternity leave.

These workers have been engaged in industry-wide protests for the past several months, demanding: (1) that the companies follow the existing labor laws, and (2) that their wages be increased to 41 cents an hour, which is still not a living wage in Bangladesh.

In Pittsburgh, we are well prepared to take action that will lead to Kalpona’s immediate release and the acceptance of the very reasonable demands of workers sewing Pirates caps at American Needle factories. At the Public Hearing on April 28, we showed you the different kinds of power we could exercise to facilitate just resolutions in situations such as these. Members of the Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance ask you to please coordinate your activities and take the following actions:

  • Contact the offices of Senator’s Specter and Casey. Previously, they helped to organize a Martin Luther King Day celebration in Dhaka that was attended by Jonathan Christensen, who is representing the Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance and the Industrial Workers of the World in Bangladesh, and the US Department of State. Ask them to determine what actions the State Department is engaged in to facilitate the release of Kalpona and for a description of the State Department’s involvement with the workers at the American Needle factories.
  • University officials from Duquesne, Carlow, and Carnegie Mellon all attended the hearing on April 28 and pledged their ongoing cooperation by providing access to the Workers Rights Consortium. Ask they begin providing that access now and begin by submitting the most recent Bangladesh related WRC activity into your public record.
  • As you know, the Pittsburgh Pirates obstinately refused your invitations for them to attend the April 28 hearing. There is great pressure on them from all of Major League Baseball and it apparel licensees, to deny Kalpona’s testimony. In a very specific sense, it is their business “not to know” what is going on in these factories and about the violence being perpetrated against the workers who sew Pirate’s apparel in Bangladesh. This is unacceptable. They do know. They have received specific information detailing workers rights abuses in the factories, specifically American Needle in Bangladesh, sewing Pirates apparel.
  • Remind the Governor Rendell, Chief Executive Onorato, and Mayor Ravenstalh that we have laws prohibiting the procurement of sweatshop apparel in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, and the City of Pittsburgh. The “SweatFree Consortium” we have been urging them to join has been designed to facilitate a coordinated response from local governments with anti sweatshop ordinances to situations such as this. They should make a good faith effort to enforce our laws by joining the Consortium now and by communicating their concerns regarding the treatment of labor unionists in Bangladesh to other procurement officials who are evaluating the options available to them to support the workers sewing government apparel in Bangladesh.

THANK YOU. Your concern for human rights and understanding of the special contributions Pittsburgh is making to women in factories sewing the apparel we all wear has been apparent for many years. COORDINATED effort and outreach to the institutions and organizations you brought together in Council Chambers on April 28 is critical at this time.

Members of the Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance will be in touch with you offices, making suggestions and providing updates throughout the week.

Kenneth Miller
Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance

Cc: Co-sponsors of the Kalpona Atker’s visit to Pittsburgh – see attached thank you that was published in the July New People.

READ the IWW statement urging fair pay for workers in Bangladesh - link.

READ the statement by the AFL-CIO urging fair pay for workers in Bangladesh - link.

Read the attached thank you that was published in the July issue of New People - PDF File