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Bangladeshi garment factory collapses, killing 96, and the media once again reports half of the storyApril 24, 2013
Ninety-six people died (and over a thousand were injured) making our clothes in Bangladesh today when the factory in which they were working collapsed. The tragedy is the latest in a troubling series of Bangladeshi factory fires, including a January fire that killed several teenagers, a November fire that killed 112, and a December 2010 fire that injured over 100 and killed 27 in a factory supplying Gap clothes.
The factory owners apparently detected a dangerous crack in the building yesterday, but ignored the warning and allowed workers to enter the building for work today.

One fireman told Reuters about 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors slammed down onto those below.

The world’s biggest garment producers and retailers, including Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney, have succeeded in limiting their legal liability as well as public scorn by constructing elaborate supply chains that make the Western corporations appear only distantly connected to these third-world tragedies. Businesses in the building that collapsed today had names like Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd., (Ltd. meaning limited liability), but sell to major retailers including Benetton, The Children’s Place and Dress Barn, according to CBS.
The reality is that virtually all of the clothes we buy in America and Europe come from countries like Bangladesh (which is now the second largest exporter of garments due to its extremely low wages and dangerous working conditions). According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between five and fifteen million 10- to 14- year-old children work in garment factories in Bangladesh. Seventy-five to ninety percent of garment workers are women.

There is no paid leave for holidays, and salary is deducted if the child is absent, or for unproductive periods when the electricity in the factory temporarily goes out. Girls under 15 years of age are preferred in these factories, as they work for less, are more likely to be unmarried with no children or domestic responsibilities, and cause no labor problems.

Media coverage of workplace disasters abroad rarely make connections to these aspects of the average worker’s experience, nor do they interrogate connections to American and European companies that ultimately enjoy the profit margin on the goods produced. When those companies are mentioned, they typically decline to comment, as Wal-Mart did today, or deny that they have any official contracts with the local businesses, which is made easier by generally shoddy paperwork and little international enforcement of labor and trade regulations.
Every few months we see news of Bangladeshi factory fires and deaths. What are those in power doing to prevent the next catastrophe? And how often do we base our own consumption choices on the working conditions of people who actually sewed the clothes, cleaned the smartphone screens, picked the tomatoes, mined the minerals? As Americans, must we continue to live in perpetual guilt about the consequences of our daily behavior?
(Photo from Reuters)

Another great post from the-lone-pamphleteer.

the-lone-pamphleteer:

Bangladeshi garment factory collapses, killing 96, and the media once again reports half of the story
April 24, 2013

Ninety-six people died (and over a thousand were injured) making our clothes in Bangladesh today when the factory in which they were working collapsed. The tragedy is the latest in a troubling series of Bangladeshi factory fires, including a January fire that killed several teenagers, a November fire that killed 112, and a December 2010 fire that injured over 100 and killed 27 in a factory supplying Gap clothes.

The factory owners apparently detected a dangerous crack in the building yesterday, but ignored the warning and allowed workers to enter the building for work today.

One fireman told Reuters about 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors slammed down onto those below.

The world’s biggest garment producers and retailers, including Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney, have succeeded in limiting their legal liability as well as public scorn by constructing elaborate supply chains that make the Western corporations appear only distantly connected to these third-world tragedies. Businesses in the building that collapsed today had names like Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd., (Ltd. meaning limited liability), but sell to major retailers including Benetton, The Children’s Place and Dress Barn, according to CBS.

The reality is that virtually all of the clothes we buy in America and Europe come from countries like Bangladesh (which is now the second largest exporter of garments due to its extremely low wages and dangerous working conditions). According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between five and fifteen million 10- to 14- year-old children work in garment factories in Bangladesh. Seventy-five to ninety percent of garment workers are women.

There is no paid leave for holidays, and salary is deducted if the child is absent, or for unproductive periods when the electricity in the factory temporarily goes out. Girls under 15 years of age are preferred in these factories, as they work for less, are more likely to be unmarried with no children or domestic responsibilities, and cause no labor problems.

Media coverage of workplace disasters abroad rarely make connections to these aspects of the average worker’s experience, nor do they interrogate connections to American and European companies that ultimately enjoy the profit margin on the goods produced. When those companies are mentioned, they typically decline to comment, as Wal-Mart did today, or deny that they have any official contracts with the local businesses, which is made easier by generally shoddy paperwork and little international enforcement of labor and trade regulations.

Every few months we see news of Bangladeshi factory fires and deaths. What are those in power doing to prevent the next catastrophe? And how often do we base our own consumption choices on the working conditions of people who actually sewed the clothes, cleaned the smartphone screens, picked the tomatoes, mined the minerals? As Americans, must we continue to live in perpetual guilt about the consequences of our daily behavior?

(Photo from Reuters)

Another great post from the-lone-pamphleteer.

112 workers killed in Bangladesh Walmart factory fire November 26, 2012
NGOs are slamming Walmart following a Saturday fire that killed at least 112 workers at a Bangladesh factory supplying apparel to the retail giant. While Walmart says it has not confirmed that it has any relationship to the factory, photos provided to The Nation show piles of clothes made for one of its exclusive brands.
In a statement e-mailed Sunday night, Walmart expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, and said that it was “trying to determine if the factory has a current relationship with Walmart or one of our suppliers…” The company called fire safety “a critically important area of Walmart’s factory audit program,” and said that it has been “working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.” Walmart added that it has “partnered with several independent organizations to develop and roll out fire safety training tools for factory management and workers.”
But in a Monday interview, Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said Walmart’s “culpability is enormous. First of all they are the largest buyer from Bangladesh” and so “they make the market.” Nova said Bangladesh has become the world’s second-largest apparel supplier “because they’ve given Walmart and its competitors what they want, which is the cheapest possible labor costs.”
“So Walmart is supporting, is incentivizing, an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions,” Nova told The Nation. “This factory is a product of that strategy that Walmart invites, supports, and perpetuates.” The WRC is a labor monitoring group whose board is composed of students, labor organizations, and university administrators.
The fire started Saturday night in a ground-floor warehouse. According to media reports, the factory’s emergency exits were insufficient in number and unsafe in design, routing through the inside, rather than the outside, of the building. Some workers survived on the factory’s roof; several jumped out of the building. A lack of safe fire exits contributed to the death toll in New York’s notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
A document on the website of the factory’s owner, Tuba Group, showed that the factory had received an “orange” rating from Walmart in May 2011, because of  “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.” The same document said that three such ratings within two years would result in a year-long suspension by Walmart.
“Obviously, they didn’t do anything about it,” said Nova. He called Walmart’s internal monitoring system “a joke” that was “set up to enable Walmart to claim that it’s policing, without in any way, shape or form inconveniencing its production process.”
A Walmart spokesperson told The New York Times that the retail giant had been “unable to confirm” the veracity of Tuba Group document, or whether Tazreen Fashions, the Tuba Group subsidiary running the factory, was supplying any Walmart goods.
But photos taken after the fire taken the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, provided to The Nation by the International Labor Rights Forum, show clothing with Walmart’s exclusive Faded Glory label (photos below). Nova accused Walmart of intentionally dragging its feet on admitting its connection to the factory, in hopes that by the time the connection is confirmed, the media will have lost interest.
WRC’s Nova said that Bangladesh’s deadly labor conditions are a direct consequence of Walmart’s business model. If a factory “really followed the law,” said Nova, “if they allowed workers to organize and bargained a contract, if they invested in necessary health and safety equipment, if they restructured the building to make it safe, put in place sprinklers and outside fire escapes, their costs would rise, they would have to charge more for their product, and they would immediately lose Walmart and their other customers.”
Source

112 workers killed in Bangladesh Walmart factory fire 
November 26, 2012

NGOs are slamming Walmart following a Saturday fire that killed at least 112 workers at a Bangladesh factory supplying apparel to the retail giant. While Walmart says it has not confirmed that it has any relationship to the factory, photos provided to The Nation show piles of clothes made for one of its exclusive brands.

In a statement e-mailed Sunday night, Walmart expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, and said that it was “trying to determine if the factory has a current relationship with Walmart or one of our suppliers…” The company called fire safety “a critically important area of Walmart’s factory audit program,” and said that it has been “working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.” Walmart added that it has “partnered with several independent organizations to develop and roll out fire safety training tools for factory management and workers.”

But in a Monday interview, Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said Walmart’s “culpability is enormous. First of all they are the largest buyer from Bangladesh” and so “they make the market.” Nova said Bangladesh has become the world’s second-largest apparel supplier “because they’ve given Walmart and its competitors what they want, which is the cheapest possible labor costs.”

“So Walmart is supporting, is incentivizing, an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions,” Nova told The Nation. “This factory is a product of that strategy that Walmart invites, supports, and perpetuates.” The WRC is a labor monitoring group whose board is composed of students, labor organizations, and university administrators.

The fire started Saturday night in a ground-floor warehouse. According to media reports, the factory’s emergency exits were insufficient in number and unsafe in design, routing through the inside, rather than the outside, of the building. Some workers survived on the factory’s roof; several jumped out of the building. A lack of safe fire exits contributed to the death toll in New York’s notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

document on the website of the factory’s owner, Tuba Group, showed that the factory had received an “orange” rating from Walmart in May 2011, because of  “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.” The same document said that three such ratings within two years would result in a year-long suspension by Walmart.

“Obviously, they didn’t do anything about it,” said Nova. He called Walmart’s internal monitoring system “a joke” that was “set up to enable Walmart to claim that it’s policing, without in any way, shape or form inconveniencing its production process.”

A Walmart spokesperson told The New York Times that the retail giant had been “unable to confirm” the veracity of Tuba Group document, or whether Tazreen Fashions, the Tuba Group subsidiary running the factory, was supplying any Walmart goods.

But photos taken after the fire taken the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, provided to The Nation by the International Labor Rights Forum, show clothing with Walmart’s exclusive Faded Glory label (photos below). Nova accused Walmart of intentionally dragging its feet on admitting its connection to the factory, in hopes that by the time the connection is confirmed, the media will have lost interest.

WRC’s Nova said that Bangladesh’s deadly labor conditions are a direct consequence of Walmart’s business model. If a factory “really followed the law,” said Nova, “if they allowed workers to organize and bargained a contract, if they invested in necessary health and safety equipment, if they restructured the building to make it safe, put in place sprinklers and outside fire escapes, their costs would rise, they would have to charge more for their product, and they would immediately lose Walmart and their other customers.”

Source