Here’s What Happens When a Bangladeshi Garment Employee Asks for Safe Working Conditions

In an exclusive clip from the documentary ‘The True Cost,’ a retail industry laborer demands an end to dangerous factory practices.
Apr 27, 2015·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

When the average customer heads to the store to purchase a new outfit, they might check the price tag of a T-shirt or pair of jeans. But the new documentary The True Cost reveals that the true value of an item comes from the human and environmental costs involved in making it.

In this exclusive clip from the film, we meet Shima Akhter, a 23-year-old woman struggling to make ends meet. She is one of almost 4 million garment workers in Bangladesh and earns less than $3 a day making clothes in a dangerous facility.

With profit taking precedence over safety, working conditions for garment employees have proved fatal time and again. Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory collapse killed more than 1,100 garment workers in 2013, and there have been several other major factory fires in the years since. The workers are often aware that the factories they work in are unsafe, but there’s little they can do to make change.

When Akhter formed a union at her job, the group presented the management with a list of demands. Not only did her bosses refuse to improve the working conditions, but Akhter and her fellow union members were locked in a room and beaten with sticks and chairs by the managers and 30 to 40 other staff members.

Along with Akhter’s personal experiences in Bangladesh, the film explores how the garment industry affects workers in Cambodia, farmers in Texas and India, and those working to change the dangerous conditions endured by the people who make the clothes on our backs.