230 dead in collapsed Bangladesh sweatshop
It should not take the death of 400 innocent lives to fuel change. Unfortunately, it looks to be as though this is the story in Bangladesh, where last week an eight- story building collapsed on sweatshop workers. Inside the building lie sweatshops and factories of who supplied to major retailers like JC Penny (for their Joe Fresh brand) or Mango (a major retail brand in Europe). Furthermore, reports indicate that 80% of the workers inside the building were women, ages 18-20. These events highlight the importance of global working standards and the value of fair trade organizations.
The sad reality
Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated event in Bangladesh, where two other buildings caught fire in just in the last year, claiming the lives of over 300 workers. While there are fairly good building codes in place that should prevent structural catastrophe, it has been reported that wealthy business owners largely disregard laws and safety codes to offer the cheapest clothes possible to western clothing companies and often use their influence to prevent the closing of their sweatshop factories. Because of this negligence and greed, there are the piles of the burned bodies of young women at locked fire exits in the collapsed building.
The local government responded to the events, claiming they are inspecting other factories and that “If any of the garment factories are found non- compliant, it will be closed. Wal-Mart unveiled a “zero tolerance” policy to subcontracting after a Bangladesh factory caught fire in November (too little too late?). If suppliers subcontract any work without disclosing it to Wal-Mart, they will lose their contract. Greta first step but it does not improve anything on the current situation. It looks more like a way to cover their ass…ets than to really address the situation. In Bangladesh, where 36% of citizens live on less than $1/day and the hourly wage is 13 cents, sweatshops are incredibly popular and are literally toxic work spaces.
Action is imperative for change. Writing letters to companies such as Walmart, Inditex SA (who owns Lefties, Bershka, and Zara), and JC Penny may make the public opinion more apparent and immediate to the . If there is no public outcry, there is little reason to believe they will change their ways.
Secondly, buying certified fair trade products will support the growth of such organizations and ensure your purchases are made without the use of sweatshops or child labor. Fair trade organizations create a healthy work environment in disadvantaged communities and keep women and children off the street. The food products are often more delicious and richer in flavor, and the clothing & jewelry items are handcrafted and unique. For more information on fair trade, visit the Fair Trade Federation or Fair Trade USA. The good news lately? Fair Trade USA has started to certify clothing companies, something that proved very difficult until now.
Do you often wonder why that cute shirt is sooooo cheap? Well, that’s because near slave labor made it. Ask yourself if it’s worth a life? What if that happened on US soil? Oh wait, it does… but that’s for another time.
We know, we’re Debbie Downers… but this stuff is important to know.