On April 23, 2013 in the Savar district of Dhaka, capitol of Bangladesh, several cracks were discovered in a commercial building housing a garment factory, a bank, several shops and some apartments. The businesses on the lower floors immediately closed and evacuated the building, but the next day garment workers were ordered to return to work as normal.
At 9am on the 24th, the building collapsed. 1,129 people died and an additional 2,515 people were injured.
The building itself was not designed to serve as a factory with heavy machinery, and it was reported that several upper floors had been added without permits. The workers were making wages equivalent to $52 per month, meaning that if they had even one child their labor did not raise their family above the global extreme poverty line of $1 per day.
The clothes these people were making were bound for stores like Walmart, Benetton, J.C. Penney and others. The injustice of their circumstances are almost inconceivable, but were entirely invisible to the people who bought the clothes until unthinkable tragedy brought them briefly into the global spotlight.
We all need clothing, and the economic activity that the garment industry brings to places like Bangladesh can be a powerful weapon against poverty, but something must be done to ensure that human beings are not oppressed in the name of a profit margin.