By Michael Messina
Aminul Islam. It’s a name you probably don’t know. It’s one I didn’t until I read a piece in the New York Times on the life a labor leader from Bangladesh. Islam was a man a great integrity. Unfortunately, I say ‘was’ because the practice of organizing workers in that country is batted down with lethal enforcement. The story is a sad one of a free spirit wanting to lend a hand to his fellow worker so that all could live a better life in a country where Gap and Tommy Hilfiger clothes are made for $37 a month. I encourage you to read the whole story.
To me, it was a reminder of how so many have depersonalized the labor movement and what it means to keep the labor movement alive in this country. In this country we don’t have to worry about being killed for attempting to organize, but there is an increasing sense of negativity toward unions. The Chicago teachers strike is the latest example of hostility toward the working class. It’s a simple fact that needs to be repeated: Unions provide a voice for the worker who can’t fight the powers that be on his or her own. Are these unions and the people who run them perfect? Absolutely not. No member would ever argue that, but the story of Aminul Islam is a reminder that we are indeed humans, humans whose intention is to lend a helping hand in order to lead a respectable life.
Islam’s unrelenting activity in advocating for fair working conditions allows us to step back and reassess why we, Labor 411, as part of the American labor movement, are advocating for union-made products and services. Buying union-made assures the best quality product along with the safest workplaces and wages that ensure a family doesn’t struggle to survive. We continue to say ‘thank you’ to all those who continue to make this conscious decision to live and buy union.