Join us in calling on Walmart, H&M and Gap, the largest buyers of clothing made in Bangladesh, to make immediate safety improvements in their supplier factories by joining the legally-binding Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. All three retailers have been involved in the scourge of factory disasters in Bangladesh.
Right now, scores of garment workers are still trapped under the rubble of a building in Bangladesh which housed six factories making clothes for dozens of US and European brands. These workers were denied their right to refuse dangerous work: they were told they would lose a month’s pay if they didn’t report to work the day after cracks appeared in the walls. Over 370 people have perished as a result of Wednesday’s tragedy, and it remains unclear how many more victims will lose their lives as the rescue operation continues.
The disaster at Rana Plaza is now the deadliest incident in the garment industry in known history. It is but one in a series of disasters that could have been preventable, had the largest apparel buyers learned from earlier tragedies and adopted the safety measures urged by unions and labor rights groups. In April 2005, 64 workers died when their warnings were ignored and Spectrum factory collapsed. In February 2010, 21 workers were killed in the fire at Garib & Garib, a factory that supplied H&M. In December 2010, 29 workers perished in the That’s It Sportswear factory fire, where burned remnants of Old Navy clothing (a Gap Inc. brand) was found. Then, just last fall disaster struck again. The fire at Tazreen, a supplier to Walmart and Sears, took the lives of 112 garment workers. These are only four of the dozens of preventable incidents that have taken garment workers’ lives in Bangladesh. This pattern of fires and building collapses will not end unless retailers make real change in their sourcing practices.