65, seek 000 people from more than 70 countries call on American corporations with annual profits in the tens of billions to give a minuscule percentage of that to compensate workers killed or injured while making their clothing.
To illustrate just how ridiculous these two companies’ response has been, let’s review this case in very simple terms:
Last month, 28 workers making clothes for Abercrombie & Fitch and Target were killed in a massive, preventable blaze at an unsafe clothing sweatshop in Bangladesh. Some were burned to death, some suffocated to death, some jumped to their death, and hundreds were seriously injured.
Seven multinational companies sourced from the factory where the fire took place: Abercrombie & Fitch, Target, JC Penney, Carters Inc (owner of the brand Osh Kosh B’Gosh), the VF Corporation (owners of The North Face and Wrangler and Lee jeans), the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation (owners of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and GAP Inc (owner of the brands GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy).
Since then Bangladeshi labor rights groups and their international allies have called on all seven companies to take responsibility for the fire, compensate the workers or their families, and institute a system of fire safety inspections. More than 65,000 people from some 70 countries have joined in, making this the third most popular Change.org action of all time!
Five of the seven companies have responded by taking steps to do the right thing, and a consortium of international labor rights groups are working overtime to hold them to their promises.
But apparently Target and Abercrombie & Fitch see things quite differently. To date, their only response has to been to claim they are “reviewing options for financial contributions” and suggest a “training program” for workers “to reduce the risk of recurrence.”
With a number of the exits locked by management, it’s not clear exactly how worker training is going to do the trick.
To be clear: Target (TGT) is the second largest discount retailer in the U.S., has annual profits to the tune of $20 billion and is ranked number 30 on the Fortune 500. Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) rakes in annual profits of over $2 billion.
Furthermore: no one even asked for these companies to ensure that workers are paid a living wage (they make less than $2 a day). No one asked for these companies to ensure that the multistory factories where their clothes are made get completely rebuilt (these fires are sadly quite common, and this is the second time such an incident occurred in the last year alone).
Nope. All activists are asking for is that companies sourcing from factory show the most basic modicum of dignity by compensating those who suffered and working to ensure that something like this never happens again.
Some might call that getting off easy.
The fight can’t end here! We need to show these companies that we will not stop until they agree to just compensation to the victims and their families and thorough, independent, well funded and publicly transparent safety inspections of all multi-story supplier factories in their supply chain.
Here’s what you can do:
- Share the petition with everyone you know. Consumers will play a huge role in getting multinationals like Gap and Target to change their behavior, and it’s moments like this when the growing Change.org community can play a critical role in tipping the balance. Every time a new person signs the petition below, senior officials responsible for each company’s Global Supply Chain will automatically get a direct, personal email. So once you join, will you forward this to friends and family, and post it on Facebook, so that these companies hear a global outcry?
- Take Offline Action: If you have time to do more, consider dropping off a protest letter at a major clothing retailer’s store. Check this sample, put together by organizers at the International Labor Rights Forum. Just ask to speak to the store manager, hand them the letter, and politely explain why you are concerned. Ask them to let the company’s corporate offices know that you stopped by to call on the company to do what it can, and thank them for their time. Then head outside and hand out these fliers in front of the store until you run out or get kicked out.
- Help Get Union Leader Released: On the same day as the tragic fire, individuals claiming to be part of the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh Police force arrested Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garment Workers Unity Forum. Global Citizens has a petition demanding her release.
- Show Solidarity: Activists at the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, partners in the long battle to hold multinationals buying from Bangladeshi factories accountable, were arrested in September, part of the broader effort by the Bangladeshi government to silent those speaking out about labor and human rights issues. The Bangladeshi government also took away their license to operate as an organization and they then lost much of their international funding. It has been a complete disaster. Activists at the International Labor Rights Forum tell us that at least 2 factories were behind the charges that were filed that led to their subsequent arrest, and the key international buyer is Walmart, Sears and JC Penney. The trial is this month, and the International Labor Rights Forum is running a petition.
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