Bangladesh Factory Collapse: Is There Blood on Your Shirt?

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The cheap clothes that Americans buy from retailers every day actually come at a very high price. That cost came into stark relief last week when Rana Plaza, a building housing several garment factories, collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, killing at least 386 workers and injuring many more. With bodies still being pulled from the wreckage, the accident is already “one of the worst industrial accidents in world history,” according to Scott Nova, the executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium.

The workers who died were producing clothing for American and European consumers and earning only $38 a month, according to the Associated Press. Now the clothing brands and retailers that profited from the cheap labor at Rana Plaza are struggling to wash the blood from their hands, while other brands rethink their role in Bangladesh as a whole. Earlier this week, officials from Walmart, Gap, and about two dozen other retailers and apparel companies met in Germany to begin developing a plan to increase safety across Bangladesh’s garment factories, according to The New York Times. Today Disney, whose goods have been tied to accidents in Bangladesh in the past, announced that it will halt all production of branded merchandise in the country by March 31, 2014, according to the Times.

As the death toll mounts in Bangladesh factory accidents, western companies are feeling more pressure to change their practices. Here’s a list, drawn from both TIME reporting and other confirmed media reports, of companies that have past or present ties to devastating accidents at Bangladesh facilities:

(MOREFast, Cheap, Dead: Shopping and the Bangladesh Factory Collapse)

Walmart

The world’s largest retail giant was listed as a buyer on the website of Ether Tex, one of the garment factories destroyed in the accident. Walmart says they had no authorized production in the facility and will take “appropriate action” if they discover unauthorized production was happening in the factory. In a Reuters report, Ether Tex’s chairman initially said it had been doing sub-contracting work to supply Walmart at the time of the accident, but later said the work had been completed before the incident. In November, a fire at another Bangladesh factory that killed more than 100 was found to be producing products for Walmart stores, among other retailers.

Joe Fresh

The Canadian apparel brand, owned by Loblaw Companies Limited, was being manufactured at the Rana Plaza factory. Loblaw has vowed to provide compensation for families of victims who were making Joe Fresh apparel. The company also plans to send Loblaw representatives to the accident site to support the rescue and aid effort. Loblaw is now pushing for all Canadian retailers to adopt more stringent safety standards through the Retail Council of Canada.

Primark

Primark, a British retailer, has also directly accepted responsibility for receiving goods from the hazardous factory. The company is planning to provide monetary aid for victims’ families. “We are fully aware of our responsibility,” Primark said in a statement. “We urge these other retailers to come forward and offer assistance.”

JCPenney

A JCPenney official said that some of the Joe Fresh products being produced at Rana Plaza would have ended up in JCPenney stores, though the factories had never previously created private label JCPenney merchandise. The company says it has members of its social responsibility team currently on the ground in Bangladesh gathering information from local authorities.

Benetton

Though the Italian fashion brand emphasized that none of its products were recently made in the Rana Plaza factories, one Benetton supplier had subcontracted work to the facility in the past. The manufacturing facility was removed from Benetton’s supply chain before the accident.

Children’s Place

One manufacturer of clothing for the children’s retail chain was located at Rana Plaza, though none of the company’s products were being manufactured there when the building collapsed. A Children’s Place spokesman said the company is fully aware of its responsibilities and will provide “financial and other aid” to people affected by the accident.

(MOREBangladesh Factory Collapse Will Force Companies to Rethink Outsourced Manufacturing)

Dress Barn

This women’s fashion retailer said that it had not purchased any clothing from the Rana Plaza facility since 2010, according to The Washington Post.

Cato Fashions

Cato Fashions, a women’s fashion brand said that New Wave Bottoms, one of the manufacturers at Rana Plaza, was one of its suppliers, according to the Associated Press. However, New Wave was not producing clothing for Cato at the time of the accident.

The Walt Disney Company

Disney was not producing goods at Rana Plaza, but labor groups in Bangladesh claim to have found Disney apparel in the ruins of the factory destroyed by a fire in the nation’s capital in November. Today Disney announced that it will no longer produce licensed merchandise in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Belarus, Ecuador and Venezuela, according to the New York Times.

10 comments
mommyministries
mommyministries

To the person who asks themselves why they would feel culpable, possibly ask, 'what could I do?', and do as your heart/conscience leads in loving care for our brothers/sisters. It could be a polite call to your favoured retailers to ask what they are doing to ensure labourer safety, it could be by supporting the real actions taken by a store/manufacturer. I still am not sure what I can do, as I have not found one store / manufacturer of children's clothes that ensures /verifies/ certifies that the person making the clothing is working in safe conditions.

mommyministries
mommyministries

I called Oshkosk today to inquire into their policies to verify safety standards in foreign countries where they outsource manufacturing. Their CEO visits the countries but no policies are in place to verify /certify standards.

queenwemo
queenwemo

So how is it my fault when, after searching for weeks for a blouse and pair of pants for work and finding NO ITEM OF CLOTHING (acceptable for a business environment) made in America - How can I be held culpable when the companies ALL moved to Southeast Asia?  The only control that I have available to me is purchasing power, but that is less than useless if there is not a range of options available to select from, and support which corporate ideals you prefer.

To the locals:  I agree that it is NOT good moral policy for foreign companies (USA) to follow the out-dated, dangerous, and often de-humanizing employment laws which are currently active in many Southeast Asian nations, HOWEVER how can it be the responsibility of foreigners and global companies to fight for better employment conditions for a Society they are not a voting partner for?  In America we (used to) say "If you want it better, Then you make it better!"

myakub
myakub

If you are sympathized for the blood then wish garments buyers continue work in Bangladesh with strict worker welfare rules.

Maqboolfida
Maqboolfida

Dumping bangladesh would send the workers earnings atelast $38 a month to further penury and drive up the cost of shirts in the US..instead US buyers must enforce quality both on the product and the processes (avoidance of child labour, bad work environments etc) from their suppliers ..also the US has to engagement with democratic govt with which it trades to drive up the quality of governance (reduce corruption and financial crime, improve infra, access to govt services, law and order etc)...this would ensure growth of markets for US companies and develop countries like bangladesh with which it trades!!

SerenaTruth
SerenaTruth

China is making Bangladeshis produce unauthorized garments. A lot of the stuff that is "Made in China" is actually made in Bangladesh, but the Chinese are just making a mass profit off of the poor.

queenwemo
queenwemo

@SerenaTruth - ...and this is a surprise?

I can only speak for myself and other Thinkers who actually research our own facts, but it is a well-known fact that the Chinese use, abuse, and degrade everything touched by The Party. Remember the Chinese tires shredding all over US roads? Recall all the lead-painted toys sent over here? How about all the baby formula that did not contain nutritional value? Or the drywall panels that melted in the rain and gave off poisonous gasses? Then there are all the hacking scandals, patent abuses, and out-right piracy of digital medias.

The only thing China is good for is Chinese Food and Panda Bears!

vegitarian123
vegitarian123

What will happen to the people who rely on the deceased's income, their children, parents, spouse ..? Will Walmart or other employers be compensating those people for their negligence? 

Denesius
Denesius

There's a double tragedy here: the collapse of the factory, and the reaction leading companies to pull production out of the country. Instead of dealing with the underlying social issues, now we're putting thousands of peasants out of work. $38 a month is a pittance in the US, but in Bangladesh, it's a living wage, and these people will now face a slow starvation & disease death.