All Things Taj

  • The Collapse of Rana Plaza

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    I have been addicted to news reports on the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh.  I can't help it.  I google regularly for updates.  I want to know all the details that led to the worst garment industry disaster in history that massacred 1100+ factory workers … mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, sons and best friends.  I've gone through 100's of photos from the devastating site, family members scurrying madly looking for their loved ones, bodies being pulled from the rubble....in 2013, why did this happen? Bangladesh is the 2nd largest clothing manufacturer region in the world.  More and more global brands are sourcing their orders in Bangladesh simply because they have wages even cheaper than China...the cheapest in Asia at $37 per month - a fact I did not know prior to the Rana Plaza tragedy.  Too frequently the pursuit of higher profits comes at the cost of hundreds and now thousands of lives. To meet the growing demand from western brands for cheaper export clothing, hundreds of factories are being thrown up in a short space of time with limited building regulations.  Sadly, this involves cutting corners on health and safety.  They assure us the price they pay is enough to pay workers to live on and keep factories safe.  The reality is that factory owners let things slide like replacing faulty machinery or fixing worrying building subsidence, not having basic things like fire extinguishers in an environment where fire outbreaks are regular and expected, and the death toll rises because the emergency exit doors are used as storage areas and blocked with stacks upon stacks of boxes and no one caring enough to respond to these numerous violations. M_Id_381630_Bangladesh_building_collapse-290The pictures of this devastation, I find, hard to ignore.  What if it were MY son?  I tear up at the mere thought.  Where is the world outrage?  I understand we are a consumerist society and we don’t want to think about the conditions under which our clothes are being made.  After all, what can we do? I acknowledge it's nearly impossible for us to avoid purchasing clothes that have not been sourced overseas.  In the U.S., 95% of our clothing is sourced overseas....yes, that's only 5% of brands nationally carry the MADE IN THE USA label.  While this is quite tragic in its own right, I would like to feel the brands we know and love are a part of the solution more so than the problem. What do I personally feel is important to do? Be conscious about the brands we support and know where they stand on human rights, are they demanding basic human rights practices in the factories they choose to source their orders with, are safety conditions enforced, fair wages paid, are the factories compliant with labor and safety regulations, etc.  You may find these websites enlightening:
    • www.LabourBehindTheLabel.org
    • www.CleanClothes.org
    About two weeks ago, the Clean Clothes Campaign together with local and global unions and labor rights organizations, developed a proposal called The Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Agreement - a sector-wide initiative that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. One of the biggest global retailers, H&M, was the first to sign.  Although I want to say I'm proud of them, research shows they are extremely late to be now in reactionary mode.  As recent as November 2012, another clothing factory in Bangladesh producing H&M clothes caught on fire killing over 100 workers and H&M chose to turn a blind eye.  The heat is now on and watchdog organizations intentionally pressured H&M first to sign this agreement knowing that other major brands would follow.  I am happy to report that the parent company of ZARA has also signed this agreement, among many other European brands. Only the owners of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger have signed as American companies.  Sadly, a number of other American brands - WALMART, GAP, and others - have not signed to date citing “litigation exposure”…whatever that means.  I am not by any means an expert in this area but I have read numerous watchdog websites in the industry that feel this agreement is an exciting first step in the right direction. 67230702_garment_workers-450 For now, the answer is not to boycott brands that source in Bangladesh....trust me, I wish it were ;).  Personally, I've boycotted Nike for the past 16 years on the same issue of human rights violations … a long story for another blog post LOL. As Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity reports in the video below, the harsh reality is that these jobs are still very desperately needed in Bangladesh.  Without them would cause a massive unemployment rate of millions.  Miracles will not happen overnight nor is any person or company perfect.  However, I will again urge you to consume consciously and support the brands that share your beliefs. Watch this New York Times video:  proxy  ~ Another All Things Taj
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