The latest in a series of preventable factory disasters in the Bangladesh garment industry occurred on October 8, 2013. Yet again, Walmart and Gap are responsible and must be held accountable.
Hundreds of workers were inside the Aswad Composite Mills factory when the fire broke out. Eight workers were killed and 50 were injured, some critically.
Aswad is one of 23 factories owned by the Palmal Group, which Walmart and Gap have praised as a top supplier. According to the Worker Rights Consortium, workers and management at the factory said that Walmart was the largest customer of the factory at the time of the fire – they had been producing for the company’s George brand. Reporters onsite uncovered documents of Gap, Walmart and other brands.
Walmart now owes compensation to the victims of three major factory catastrophes that have taken place in the Bangladesh garment industry within the past year. This is no coincidence. Walmart’s “always low prices” approach has helped create a garment industry of low wages and low safety standards in Bangladesh. As the second largest buyer of clothing from Bangladesh, Walmart bears a major responsibility to clean up the industry from which it has greatly profited.
While over 100 other companies have joined together in the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an agreement between companies and unions, Walmart has refused. Instead, Walmart teamed up with Gap to create a corporate-controlled program that is hardly more than a facelift of the programs that have failed Bangladeshi workers in the past. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb. Please take action now – join with us in calling on Walmart and Gap to stop putting profits over people’s lives.
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Huffington Post, article by Kevin Thomas, July 12, 2013: The Real Issue is Accountability
There's no truth to the idea being propagated by US retailers like Gap and Walmart that signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the "Bangladesh Accord") might open them up to frivolous lawsuits... The reason Gap and Walmart have been unwilling to join the Accord has nothing to do with the "different" US legal environment. It has everything to do with avoiding accountability.
Los Angeles Times, Op-ed by James Brudney and Catherine Fisk, May 17, 2013: Wal-Mart, Gap skirt the issue They have refused to sign a Bangladesh workers’ safety accord, showing irrational fears of financial and moral commitments.