Walmart’s Missing Signature

Walmart’s Missing Signature

Originally published by the Progressive Populist

 

The scene was horrific. Over 2,500 people trapped helplessly beneath rubble—some for more than 12 hours—waiting for rescuers to find them. Over 1,100 other people didn’t get out alive. This was one year ago this week at the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, a leading producer of clothing sold at Wal-Mart.

 

Every other tenant of the eight-story building had already vacated the property after engineers discovered cracks in the building. However, the Rana Plaza garment workers were ordered to return to work. Following the tragic events of April 24, 2013, worldwide outcry forced action. With support of the IndusriALL Global Union, the UNI Global Union, and other non-governmental organizations, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh—a legally binding agreement designed to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile industry—was drafted and signed by some 80 global companies, including Target and Kmart. Still, Wal-Mart’s signature is notably absent.

 

Instead, Wal-Mart—who reported earning of $130 billion last year, an amount double Bangladesh’s GDP—along with the Walmart Foundation, donated $1 million to the Rana Plaza victims’ fund.

 

Instead of signing the accord, Wal-Mart, along with companies like The Gap and J.C. Penney, collaborated to construct a program called the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. However, the alliance is voluntary and offers no oversight from workers, unions or government agencies. Essentially, it is an alliance of garment producers overseeing garment production.

 

One year after this disaster, far too many workers around the world continue to get injured or killed while at work. In Bangladesh, thousands of workers still face unsafe conditions and survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse are still struggling from their injuries and the loss of their income.

 

Tragedies like Rana Plaza are stark reminders that low-cost goods often come with a high human cost attached. While some positive changes have come from the tragedy at Rana Plaza, safety conditions continue to be a problem around the world. Those who died in the Rana Plaza collapse could still provide inspiration for an entire industry to take needed steps toward creating better worker safety programs.