117 dead in Bangladesh as WalMart clothing factory burns. In these photos taken by citizens of Dhaka, we see relatives mourning the charred remains of the dead. Some had jumped from windows to escape the uncontrolled blaze.The scope of the disaster approaches the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, where 146 died in the worst factory fire ever, in an almost identical scenario. Even today, the death toll continues to rise. Subsequent reports have noted clothing made for Sears and Disney in the debris. Photos from citizenside.com
by Murshed Zaheed
(DHAKA 11-26) This past weekend at least 117 workers were killed in a devastating fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh — Tazreen Fashion Ltd. — which had been making clothes under a Walmart brand.1
The stories coming from the surviving workers are horrifying. They were trapped in the fire as there were no emergency exits and an exit door was locked.2 According to a report, "fire extinguishers didn't work and apparently were there just to impress inspectors, and that when the fire alarm went off, workers were told by their bosses to go back to their sewing machines."3 Shockingly, 12 people died at hospitals after jumping from the eight-story building.4
Walmart initially tried to evade responsibility by claiming it was not aware of any connection to that factory. But the corporation was finally forced to admit the connection after photos were published that showed clothing with Walmart's exclusive "Faded Glory" label at that factory after the fire.5
Bangladeshi factory workers are protesting the abuses of Walmart in the streets. And they are demanding that Walmart take responsibility for fire safety conditions in factories. Walmart must join the fire safety inspection program that brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein have endorsed to raise the standard for working conditions and prevent a tragedy like this from happening again to Bangladeshi workers.
Walmart claims that Tazreen Fashion Ltd., was subcontracted by one of its suppliers — the Tuba Group. But the fact is that Walmart's "elaborate system of contractors and subcontractors" is designed to allow the giant retailer to evade any real responsibility in tragedies like this while it continues to exploit cheap labor.6
Walmart happens to be the largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh, which has a notorious record of ignoring the safety of workers and suppressing their attempts to improve their conditions.7 Yet Walmart appears not to have taken the necessary steps to enforce safe conditions of those workers, including making sure its contractors and subcontractors were complying with basic fire codes to protect workers.
Walmart did not end its relationship with the supplier that had subcontracted to Tazreen Fashion, even though "the safety risk posed by Tazreen's substandard equipments was understood well before Sunday's blaze."8 Walmart ended its relationship with the supplier after the deadly fire, when it was publicly forced to admit that its products were being made at the factory.9 This is not acceptable.
Walmart, of course, has an appalling record10 that includes blatant disregard for the human rights of workers, discrimination against women, and infliction of damage on small businesses and the environment. As reported by the Nation's Josh Eidelson:
Walmart has come under repeated scrutiny for the labor conditions at its suppliers. In June, guest workers at C.J.'s Seafood went on strike over alleged forced labor conditions; after initially saying it had investigated and couldn't substantiate the accusations, Walmart eventually suspended the supplier. In September, Human Rights Watch released a report finding widespread debt bondage at the Phatthana shrimp company in Thailand, and accusing Walmart of offering shifting and contradictory explanations of its relationship to the company.11
We cannot let Walmart get away with ignoring claims of basic safety violations and human rights abuses. Speaking up in large numbers will make a difference now, as the company is already experiencing increased scrutiny as a result of U.S. workers striking for a safe workplace and a decent standard of living.
Let's show solidarity with workers fighting for basic safety and human rights. Click below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for taking action.
Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. Farid Hossain and Julhas Alam, "Walmart Admits Bangladesh Factory Was Making Clothing For Retailer Before Fire," AP, November 26, 2012.
5. Josh Eidelson, "Photos Show Walmart Apparel at Site of Deadly Factory Fire in Bangladesh," The Nation, November 26, 2012.
6. Laura Clawson, "Walmart clothing found in Bangladeshi factory after fire that killed 112," DailyKos.com, November 26, 2012.
7. "Massive Fire Kills At Least 118 Factory Workers in Bangladesh at Wal-Mart Supplier," DemocracyNow.org, November 26, 2012.
8. Zack Beauchamp, "More Than 100 People Killed By Fire In Bangladeshi Factory Allegedly Supplying Walmart," ThinkProgress.org, November 26, 2012.
9. Farid Hossain and Julhas Alam, "Walmart Admits Bangladesh Factory Was Making Clothing For Retailer Before Fire."
11. Eidelson, "Photos Show Walmart Apparel at Site of Deadly Factory Fire in Bangladesh."
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