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Workers Rights Consortium urges American retailers to join international Safety Accord

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

16 Dec 2021

Retail

Image: Clean Clothes Campaign

The Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013 took over 1,100 lives and led to an international Safety Accord to protect local garment workers. Now with 155 global apparel brands and retailers having signed the agreement, it has become apparent that a number of key American retailers are not signatories.

In another tragic incident, a fire that broke out in a sportswear factory on the outskirts of Dhaka killed 29 workers died 11 years ago. These workers made clothing for brands including Target, Kohl, JCPenney, Carter’s, Abercrombie & Fitch amongst others.

These American retailers all maintained labour rights monitoring schemes that were supposed to protect workers’ safety—yet the companies took no apparent action in the months and years before the fire to address the hazards that ultimately killed 29 garment workers, said the Workers Right Consortium. Despite calls in the wake of this disaster for all apparel brands and retailers producing in Bangladesh to help address the sweeping safety deficiencies across the country’s 3,000 garment factories, multiple US companies rejected the creation of a new safety agreement.

For example, Walmart claimed in 2011 that it was “not financially feasible” for it to pay better prices to suppliers to help pay for safety renovations like proper fire exits.

Kohl’s, Target, JCPenney, Carter’s and A&F have not signed the Safety Accord

Incredibly, when a binding agreement between unions and brands to address worker safety in Bangladesh was finally created after the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse, most of the brands that produced at That’s Its Sportswear refused to sign it, including Kohl’s, Target, JCPenney, and Carter’s. Abercrombie & Fitch did sign, but then refused to remain in the agreement when it was renewed in 2018. To date, none of these brands have signed the new International Safety Accord.

“Safety renovations generated by the Accord across 1,600 factories have made conditions safer for more than two million workers”, said Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium. “Participation by additional retailers such as Target, Gap, and Kohl’s would bring this life-saving program to cover thousands more workers in Bangladesh and could help ensure its expansion to other countries.”