So…we had a collapse in Bangladesh. We all know the news by now. The findings, as reported by the Huffington Post on the reasons for the collapse are not that unusual. Substandard building practices and lack of inspections are very obvious. The recommendations from the government, that depends on this work, are.
The committee recommended life prison sentences for the owners of the building and the five garment factories that operated there, though the charges they currently face carry a maximum seven-year term. Their report, submitted to the government Wednesday, says nothing about the role that an inadequate regulatory system played in the April 24 collapse, which left more than 1,100 people dead.
Now, we tend to think that we in the US have better job conditions. We do, but we had to fight for them.
Here from the OSHA website, on the infamous Triangle Waist Factory fire.
One hundred years ago on March 25, fire spread through the cramped Triangle Waist Company garment factory on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in lower Manhattan. Workers in the factory, many of whom were young women recently arrived from Europe, had little time or opportunity to escape. The rapidly spreading fire killed 146 workers.
Workers had to organize. None of this came from the good will of employers. It never has, it never will. Safety means an external cost that takes away from profit margins. A living wage also does the same. And the reaction from American corporations tells me things have not changed.
Major corporations have refused to join a binding agreement to improve safety in Bangladeshi factories. The fear, Unions will take advantage and sue them. This is…quite frankly the excuse. It is ultimately about profits. By law they are, and are mandated to produce the highest amount of profits for investors that they can.
We understand this. Law has been divorced from human ethics and morality.
This comes via the New Yorker
Kalpona Akter is now trying to help his family receive compensation; the process has been slow, and American companies have been reluctant to coöperate, she says. But Akter wants more than just compensation for the survivors and their families: she wants profitable companies like Gap and Walmart to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, and to ensure that their subcontractors pay more than the standard, barely livable fifty-five dollars per month. In Bangladesh, the garment industry brings in more than twenty billion dollars each year. Most of its source companies do not require, or allow, independent monitoring of their factories. Watching the Rana Plaza tragedy unfold, Akter can’t help but think of the many promises she’s heard from the government before, even recently. “After Tazreen, they said, ‘Yes, we’ll check out all the factories and make sure they are safe,’ ” she told me. “And nothing happened.”
So next time you enter The Gap, or Walmart, or JC Penney…remember that these companies care about one thing alone, and it’s not you, or the workers that make the clothes. They care about profits, pure and simple. A few deaths, in a fire, or a building collapse…are just the cost of dong business.
Workers should realize that we have far more in common with the people in Bangladesh, than the owners commissioning the clothes. We have a war on workers and worker safety in the US…and if they could, those fires and collapses would be happening here…safety is an externality they don’t want to pay for.
The reaction to that agreement is damning. It is also damning to US law that puts profits above human life.