News Release

Bangladesh Dead Approaches 1,000; Renewed Calls for “Real Reform”

AP reports: “A fire fed by huge piles of acrylic products used to make sweaters killed eight people at a Bangladesh garment factory, barely two weeks after a collapse at another garment factory building where the death toll was approaching 1,000 on Thursday.”

CHARLES KERNAGHAN, BARBARA BRIGGS, bbriggs at glhr.org, @IGLHR
Kernaghan and Briggs are with the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, which broke the news that the workers had been ordered back to work shortly before the collapse of the garment factory.

Kernaghan said today: “It’s been painfully clear to our staff on the ground for days that there would be more than 1,000 dead. There were so many parents from the villages who had come looking for their children who worked at the factory who were not finding them.

“Many injured workers are being forced to leave the hospital prematurely to make room for those with even greater injuries — including amputees. We are setting up a fund to help these workers, who lack money for food, rent, medicines and medical care.

“But the deeper issue is that real reform is needed. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, the Bangladesh finance minister, talked about the disaster in the most cavalier manner: ‘I don’t think it is really serious — it’s an accident.’

“In 2007, together with the United Steelworkers union, we helped write the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act which, when passed, will for the first time afford human beings with the same legal rights that corporations have demanded and won to protect their trademarks and products. Mickey Mouse and Microsoft are protected but not the human beings — the workers — who produce them. This legislation will prohibit child labor and forced labor, while guaranteeing workers the right to organize, to form a union and to collectively bargain. Sweatshop goods will not be able to enter the U.S., be sold in the U.S. or be exported. The bill had 26 co-sponsors in the Senate, including then Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, along with 175 co-sponsors in the House. In a Harris Poll, 76 percent of the American people wanted this legislation passed.

“The legislation will empower workers, build the middle class, end the race to the bottom and lift workers across the developing world.

“If enough of us raise our voices, we will win.”