Factory workers work in almost slave-like conditions making clothes for Americans. They are generally young, poor and female. On December 14, more than two dozen of them were burned alive when an easily preventable fire broke out in the unsafe, multi-story sweatshop they were working in.
Who did these Bangladeshi workers die for? Surely a shady company making clothes for the Bangladeshi poor?
Nope. These laborers make clothes for prominent American brands, like Abercrombie & Fitch, JC Penney, Target, Carters Inc (owner of the brand Osh Kosh B'Gosh), GAP Inc (owner of the brands GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy), the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation (owners of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and the VF Corporation (owners of The North Face and Wrangler and Lee jeans).
The tragedy began when a fire broke out on the ninth and 10th floors of the multi-story "That's It Sportswear" clothing factory just north the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. With a number of the exits blocked, 28 workers were killed: most burned to death, some trampled to death, some killed by suffocation and others jumped from the flames to their death. Several dozen more suffered severe burns.
The tragedy is particularly bitter as labor rights activists have long called on US brands to pressure their Asian manufacturers to improve safety conditions at multi-story factories. Indeed this past April groups like the International Labor Rights Forum, the Maquila Solidarity Network and the Clean Clothes Campaign specifically called on major clothing brands to thoroughly review safety standards in multi-story factories.
But how many times in one year do workers have to die before American brands begin to take worker safety seriously?
These are principally American companies accountable to American consumers. It's time to show them that US shoppers will demand a serious, severe response to incidents like this.
Join a large consortium of Bangladeshi and international groups calling on all companies sourcing from the "That's It Sportswear" factory to provide just compensation to the victims and their families and launch thorough, independent, well funded and publicly transparent safety inspections of all multi-story supplier factories in Bangladesh in the supply chain of each brand and retailer.