Her name was Shaheena. She went to work at dawn that fateful April morning, even though her brother-in-law urged her to stay home. A single mom, Shaheena worked grueling hours to support herself and her son. When this mother was faced with the decision of returning to work at a potentially unstable clothing factory or the risk of not being paid, and therefore not being able to provide milk or shelter for her infant son, it must have seemed like no choice at all.
Sadly, Shaheena is just one of the more than 1,100 workers who tragically lost their lives in the recent, and preventable, Rana Plaza building collapse - the deadliest catastrophe in the history of the garment industry.
Rana Plaza factories are linked with the production of clothing for Walmart, JCPenney, The Children’s Place, Dress Barn, and Cato Fashion. These brands are not the only ones responsible for this tragedy. Nor is this incident the first of its kind. Already in the past eight years over 700 workers had lost their lives in factory fires and building collapses, sewing garments for brands such as Gap, Walmart, VF Corporation, and Sears, to name a few.
Fires and building collapses will not end unless retailers are committed to improving working conditions and safety standards. There are currently 4 million garment workers in Bangladesh, the vast majority of them are women, like Shaheena, struggling to feed their families. It is the responsibility of every company manufacturing in Bangladesh, to ensure that the people producing their products are working in safe conditions.
There is a solution - the proposed and legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
Close to 200 companies, almost all European brands, have committed to support the agreement. PVH Corp., (owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and Abercrombie & Fitch are thus far the only US companies to sign on. The Gap is notably missing from the list and refuses to sign the agreement because of its binding nature.
Join us in calling on the largest companies making clothing in Bangladesh to sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh so that the deadliest catastrophe in the history of the garment industry will also be the last.
And in the meantime here are some better choices when it comes to ethical clothing and a few labels to look for like Fair Trade or Union-Made.