Recently, more than 100 Bangladesh garment workers were killed in a fire due to unsafe conditions in the Tazreen Fashion Ltd. garment factory. Men and women working overtime on the production lines were trapped when fire broke out in the first-floor nine-floor warehouse. There were no fire escapes, windows were barred, and exit doors were locked. Survivors said the managers at Tazreen initially stopped workers from leaving, dismissing the fire warning as a false alarm.
Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest exporter of garments, after China; Tazreen Fashions Ltd. delivers clothes made to stores in Europe and the United States. Apparel companies claim they are regularly inspecting their factories and ensuring that they are safe and if a factory does not pass an inspection, it is not supposed to get orders from Western customers. Yet, every deadly fire in recent years has happened at a factory that had been faulted for violations during numerous inspections. According to news reports, the company’s management promised to pay 100,000 taka (about $1,235), to families of the workers who died. This is the legal compensation rate for a worker killed on the job; the life of a Bangladeshi garment worker is only worth $1,235.
These poor conditions would be illegal in the U.S. yet many large retailers do not hesitate find the cheapest labor in the world to ensure their biggest profits. While Americans are benefiting from lower prices, workers are putting their lives at risk. The Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop group, estimates that more than 500 workers have died in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2006. Labor laws are not enforced in some countries and factories ignore worker safety to meet the demands for lower pricing. Labor groups say that roughly a 3% annual increase in prices paid to the factories would be enough to improve their electrical and fire safety. Isn’t that a small price to pay to save lives?
- What must happen to prevent deaths among the workers who make our clothing?
- Should Americans care about the health and safety of the people making our clothing?
- Should U.S. retailers like Walmart pay for improvements in factories like Bangladesh to ensure that the workers who make their products are safe?
- Are you willing to pay higher prices for your clothing to improve working conditions in places like Bangladesh?
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series. The series features super-trial lawyer Zachary Blake handling "ripped from the headlines" legal and political issues of the day. The series currently consists of Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, and Betrayal High, with a sixth Zachary Blake novel due out later this year. To learn more about these topical social justice legal thrillers. please visit markmbello.com. Mark is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.
The American public only cares about price (a/k/a money). If they truly cared about things like quality, service and worker safety, the Big Box Stores of this world would not be so pervasive, and the little "mom & pop" grocery, hardware & drygoods stores would still be around and thriving. It is the exact same mindset that a personal injury attorney has when suit is filed against very conceivable deep pocket hoping to extort some money when the real fault rests upon the judgment-proof jerk who was texting while driving
The USA is not the world's policeman and regulatory agency. We can and should impose reasonable regulation upon what happens within our national boundaries. If a company is operating outside of the USA in accordance with the local laws, then it is none of our business. If Bangladesh, Viet Nam or Honduras wish to impose a minimum wage law or laws governing workplace conditions, they are free to do so.
My answer to the four questions you pose is , in order
1) Nothing by the American consumer - that is a task for the local governments
2) That's a matter of individual conscience - I don't think less of an individual living on the edge who decides his own family's welfare trumps that of strangers
3) They are free to do so if it improves shareholder values, but should not be required to do so - at least not from here
4) Yes - I would be willing to pay somewhat higher prices, but many wouldn't. For instance, I rarely shop at Walmart because I have many objections to the way they do business so I guess I have voted with my dollars. I don't look down on anyone who does shop at Walmart
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