As the Washington Post reported today, most U.S. clothing retailers have refused to sign on to an international pact aimed at ensuring that Bangladesh garment factory workers are less likely to get killed making our pants and shirts.
Companies including Wal-Mart, Gap, Target and 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. More than a dozen European retailers did so. But U.S. companies feared the agreement would give labor groups and others the basis to sue them in court.
Matthew Bishop at the Economist also takes note:
Yet although American clothing brands and retailers have been heavily involved in discussions about this plan, only two have signed up so far, PVH, owner of the Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Van Heusen brands, and Abercrombie & Fitch. On May 14th having led the American end of the negotiations, WalMart and the Gap both publicly came out against the plan.
The Guardian asks if working in the garment industry in Bangladesh is exploitative enough to constitute slavery:
It has taken a tragedy on the scale of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh to finally strip away any remaining illusions that cheap clothes don’t come with a serious human rights price-tag somewhere down the line.
See Humanosphere’s interview with a Bangladesh garment worker — who had to leap from the third floor of a burning factory — and her plea to Americans to do more to make garment work less deadly.