Garment Factory Collapses in Bangladesh

In the most recent tragedy of the Bangladeshi garment industry, scores of factory workers are reported dead after the collapse of a building yesterday in Savar (outside of Dhaka) that housed several manufacturers of clothing destined for Western markets. Hundreds others were injured, or remain buried under the rubble, with the death toll certain to rise.  As the Financial Times writes: The tragedy comes five months after at least 117 people were killed in a garment factory fire in the country, and will raise fresh questions about basic safety standards and management practices in a $19bn industry catering mainly to western companies and consumers. Reuters reports that of the five factories housed in the building, at least one provided clothing destined for Wal-Mart, and others contracted with European retailers.  Notorious for its more relaxed building codes and enforcement, Bangladesh has been the site of some of the worst garment factory disasters of recent years. Green America’s allies at ILRF are hosting former Bangladeshi garment workers Kalpona Akter and Sumi Abedin (survivor of the 2012 fire noted above) at Gap headquarters in San Francisco this Thursday, April 25.   Please join them, if you are able, to speak out against tragedies like yesterday’s collapse and November’s fire.

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Tell Gap: Protect sweatshop workers’ lives

Since 2006, more than 600 garment workers have died in sweatshop factory fires while sewing clothing for giant fashion companies, like Gap, H&M, JCPenney, and Abercrombie & Fitch.These tragic deaths could be prevented these companies would follow the lead of competitors like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, by agreeing to a fire-safety program that includes worker input, transparency, and binding commitments to protect workers. Six months ago Gap, publicly promised it would sign on to a worker safety program similar to the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein agreement. Instead, this month Gap changed course. They announced their own, corporate-controlled, fire-safety program – one that includes no legal commitments to workers, no oversight by worker organizations, and no transparency. This is yet another instance of a giant corporation telling its customers: “Trust us; we care about our workers,” without actually implementing meaningful safety programs. Gap had already corporate-controlled programs in place when 29 workers were killed at their Bangladeshi supplier in December 2010. Join Bangladeshi and international unions and labor groups that are calling on Gap to stop the public relations games and commit to a real fire-safety program that will save the lives of the company’s sweatshop workers. Please send Gap executives an e-mail today »

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Real Black Friday News

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While the most prominent US “Black Friday” headlines might have celebrated which electronic gadget is most popular this year (iPads), trumpeted record-breaking sales ($59 billion), or reported new appalling behavior by American shoppers (brawling over new shoes), there was one international headline that should have received much more attention — the fatal Bangladesh garment factory fire that killed more than […]

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ESPN On Sweatshops in the College Apparel Industry

Kudos to ESPN journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Justine Gubar on their well-done new piece on the sweatshop labor the Dallas Cowboys are using to manufacture their new line of sports apparel. They profile Kol Malay and her co-worker, who languish under horrible working conditions to make pricey clothing for US consumers.   From the article: Malay and her colleagues work harder than perhaps most people you know, logging regular 60-hour work weeks, sewing 10 hours a day, six days a week. They fear the wrath of their supervisors if they talk to a co-worker sitting next to them or take too long at the bathroom. They say they are essentially forced to work overtime daily and describe a hostile work environment in which supervisors yell and insult them. They work while sick because either they can’t afford to go to the doctor or fear they will be fired if they miss work. They rent small rooms with sometimes as many as three other workers, eat substandard food and have irregular water and electricity. All of this to make the clothes on your back, which just might include the Dallas Cowboys Sideline Kickoff Midweight Jacket you scored for Christmas, the one that sells for $100 — or about what Malay will earn in one month. You should read the whole thing.

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Bill Would Require Large Companies to Disclose Supply Chain Efforts

A new bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by a New York congresswoman, would require companies with more than $100 million in earnings to publicly disclose their efforts to keep child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking out of their supply chains.  “It’s virtually impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of Queens, when she introduced the bill. According to the Christian Science Monitor: The bill would require any company earning more than $100 million worldwide to document its efforts in two places: its annual Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) filing, and the company’s website. These disclosures would detail the companies’ policies to prevent illegal labor and their methods for certifying that suppliers abide by them. … “The Congresswoman was very intelligent about the way she’s put this together,” says E. Benjamin Skinner [author of the book, “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery]. “[The disclosure] has to be in an SEC filing. If you lie as a CEO in an SEC filing, you go to jail.”

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Video Game Teaches Kids About Sweatshops

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Via Wired UK comes news of a new educational video game.  The “Sweatshop” game is designed to teach young people about how the pursuit of ever-increasing profit margins leads to sweastshop working conditions in factories churning out consumer goods.  Players learn about the “race to the bottom” in a hands-on way. Says Wired about the game’s intentions:  As young people generally […]

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