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Friday, May 17, 2013

USA Retail callousness is U.S. Global relations paradigm: unspeakable disregard for life

Factory collapse

Think Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Occupied Territories/Palestine, and others in South Central Asia/Middle East/Persia/ North and Eastern Africa: endless destruction with impunity
Editing and commentary by 
Carolyn Bennett

orporations ─ particularly Western corporations ─ treat workers as the U.S. government, in foreign relations, treats sovereign peoples. Affairs of merchants and governments cast in a model of constant destruction, in defiance and deliberately dismissive of international convention. In the news this week: Who signs and who refuses to sign an international Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladeshi factories?

More than reasonable Accord 

The safety agreement set forth after Bangladeshi workers died repeatedly in factory fires and unsafe, collapsing buildings requires companies to conduct independent safety inspections, make their reports on factory conditions public, and cover the costs for needed repairs. It also calls for companies to pay up to $500,000 annually toward the effort; and to stop doing business with any factory that refuses to make safety upgrades and refuses to allow workers and their unions to have a voice in factory safety.

 Bangladeshi women
working in factory
Research by the advocacy group, International Labor Rights Forum, found that since 2005, at least 1,800 workers have died in Bangladeshi garment industry factory fires and building collapses. The two latest tragedies (fires and collapse) in the Bangladesh’s garment industry pushed the alarm: a building collapse on April 24 this year was the industry’s worst disaster in history, leaving more than a thousand people dead; The November 2012 fire in another garment factory in Bangladesh left 112 workers dead.

Callous merchants careless of Bangladeshi life

Retailers staying in Bangladesh and or refusing to sign the fire and safety accord include: H&M, Wal-Mart, The Children’s Place, Mango, J.C. Penney, Gap, Benetton, and Sears

Those refusing to sign the international Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh are, according to the Washington Post, “Nearly all U.S. clothing chains.”

Wal-Mart, Gap, Target, J.C. Penney had been pressed by labor groups to sign the document in the wake of last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed at least 1,127 people.

Found in the April Rana Plaza rubble were labels and purchase orders of retailers Benetton, Cato Fashions, The Children’s Place, El Corte Inglés, and Loblaw (owner of Joe Fresh).

Sign of care

The legally-binding, first-of-its-kind contract requiring Western businesses to help finance improvements in the factories they use in Bangladesh and calling for independent building inspections, public disclosure of audit results, mandatory building renovations to address hazards, and union access to factories to educate workers on their rights and their safety was signed by more than a dozen European retailers

Signers of the five-year international Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh include H&M (a Swedish chain and the largest clothing buyer in Bangladesh), C&A (Netherlands), Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Primark (UK retailers), PvH Corp. (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, the only major U.S. company to sign the contract), Tchibo (a German coffee retailer selling clothes), and Inditex (owner of the Zara chain of Spain), El Corte Inglés (Spain), Carrefour (France), Benetton (Italy)

 Bangladeshi women
mourn their dead
 representative of Clean Clothes Campaign, Ineke Zeldenrust, told the press that, “The accord includes all of the components essential to be effective: independent safety inspections with public reports, mandatory repairs and renovations, the obligation by brands and retailers to underwrite the costs and to terminate business with any factory that refuses to make necessary safety upgrades, and a vital role for workers and their unions.” The heart of the agreement “is the commitment by companies to pay for the renovations and repairs necessary to make factory buildings in Bangladesh safe.”

But this was too burdensome for the world’s No. 1 retailer, Wal-mart (USA),  which was also implicated in the November Tazreen Fashions factory fire that left 112 people dead. To burdensome for Gap that, according to the Post, has “contracts with 78 of Bangladesh’s 6,500 factories.”

Found the rubble
Global call to solidarity

lobal citizens have weighed in sending messages to international brands sourcing from Bangladesh, calling on brands to take immediate action in implementing sustainable safety measures in their supplier factories in order to prevent another tragedy such as Rana Plaza.

This week labor-rights activists worldwide banded together to persuade Western companies to sign the Bangladesh safety accord.

Found in the rubble
Trade unions and labor-rights groups worldwide ─ including the Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Avaaz, United Students Against Sweatshops, War on Want, Causes, IndustriAll Global Union, SumOfUs.org, Change.org, and Maquila Solidarity Network ─  banded together in a unified campaign to persuade Western companies to sign the safety accord. Petitions were launched by the Clean Clothes Campaign, the Labor Rights Forum, the War on Want, AVAAZ, the Causes, the U.S. Students Against Sweatshops, Gap Death Traps, the CREDO Action, the Fashion Takes Action, the Change.org, the Sumofus.org

West consumed
Bangladeshis died
General Secretary of IndustriAll Global Union, Jyrki Raina, says the standards enunciated in the accord are “straightforward, commonsense measures that will have a vital impact on worker safety in factories in Bangladesh. And it is time for all other brands to commit to sustainable safety” in this country.

I am thinking
How much is enough
How much "more" harms?

  • How much does any one person or entity, merchant or corporate owner need ─ even allowing for a few perks, surprises or “special” stuff but not for the criminal waste committed routinely by the West? 

  • How much does grabbing “more” deny true need and cause destitution and or death; and what are the moral implications of this? 

  • How much are peoples of Western nations willing to forego, give up, do without to secure human rights and justice for all workers, all peoples of the world ─ immediate neighbors to Bangladeshi workers?

I believe
that while it is clearly important that corporations and governments are reined in, monitored, regulated and checked ─ it is also imperative that in every pursuit and interaction including market interactions ordinary people (we) live our “ethics” and our humanity. No land is an island; no people are apart.

Sources and notes

“Big retailers back safety accord in Bangladesh” ( Posted: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Updated: 7:34 p.m. Monday),  Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. http://www.wral.com/big-retailers-back-safety-accord-in-bangladesh/12440691/

“Win for Bangladesh,” http://www.ecouterre.com/hm-zara-commit-to-signing-bangladesh-fire-and-safety-agreement/bangladesh-fire-3/


“Most U.S. clothing chains did not sign pact on Bangladesh factory reforms” (by Brad Plumer, published: May 15, 2013, © The Washington Post Company), http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/most-us-clothing-chains-did-not-sign-pact-on-bangladesh-factory-reforms/2013/05/15/4290133a-bd93-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html


Bennett's books are available in New York State independent bookstores: Lift Bridge Bookshop: www.liftbridgebooks.com [Brockport, NY]; Sundance Books: http://www.sundancebooks.com/main.html [Geneseo, NY]; Mood Makers Books: www.moodmakersbooks.com [City of Rochester, NY]; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center: www.enlightenthedog.org/ [Buffalo, NY]; Burlingham Books – ‘Your Local Chapter’: http://burlinghambooks.com/ [Perry, NY 14530]; The Bookworm: http://www.eabookworm.com/ [East Aurora, NY] • See also: World Pulse: Global Issues through the eyes of Women: http://www.worldpulse.com/ http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire http://www.facebook.com/#!/bennetts2ndstudy


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