FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 21, 2014
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA
GABRIELA USA Stands in Solidarity with Garment Workers in Cambodia
GABRIELA USA, an alliance of organizations representing Filipina women across the United States, joins the growing ranks worldwide in support of all Cambodian workers, fighting for their right to a living wage. Because of this, we call out the Hun Sen government, and its violent tactics towards suppressing peaceful assembly and the rightful call to strike under labor law; tactics that have resulted in the deaths, injury and arrests of workers supporting the most recent nationwide garment worker strike.
GABRIELA USA bears witness to the struggle of Cambodia’s more than 600,000 garment workers, 90 percent of whom are young women, demanding an increase of the minimum wage from $80 to $160 per month for a six-day, 48-hour work week. Under Cambodia’s own labor laws, stipulating that “minimum wage must ensure every worker of a decent standard of living,” we challenge the government’s response of violent dispersal like the firing of automatic rifles into crowds of unarmed demonstrators, the banning of public gatherings consisting of more than 10 people, and the illegal arrests and trumped-up charges of Union leaders – tactics similar to what we see happening in the Philippines towards its own workers by the triumvirate of foreign interests, neo-liberal policies, and a colluding government.
Why such extreme actions of lethal force and repression? It’s due to the Cambodian economy’s dependence upon the multi-national garment companies that subcontract to its estimated 800 local factories. US and European retailers like the Gap, H&M, Adidas and Nike are some of the largest buyers of garments manufactured in Cambodia. The call for fair wages by striking workers is then unjustly blamed for the threatening of bottom-line profit for these companies who prey upon poor countries like Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam for cheap labor under slave-like conditions. It therefore becomes in the best interest of corrupt governments, unconcerned for the welfare of its citizens, to maintain the confidence of the foreign entities lining its own pockets at any cost – no different from the example we see from the Aquino government – the template for imperialist practice at the expense of the people.
GABRIELA USA, an international chapter of GABRIELA-Philippines, stands with Cambodian workers to demand the Cambodian government to release any detained workers, and for the immediate end of repressive violence against Labor Movement and Human Rights demonstrators. We also call on our Filipinos in the United States and everywhere to take up the cause and concerns of workers worldwide, taking into account how our individual actions can be combined to support their struggles for a just living wage.