by Sasha Lessin, Ph.D., Focalizer, www.worldpeaceassociation.com
Howard Zinn wrote of theTRIANGLE SHIRTWAISTE COMPANY FIRE in New York City in 1911, where 250,000 workers worked 12 hours a day sweating above the seventh floor. “The fire that began in a rag bin swept through the 8th 9th and 10th floors.” Fire department ladders only reached to the 7th floor. The law said factory doors must open outward, but the Triangle Company’s doors opened in.” Contrary to law, the Company kept the doors locked while the girls worked. Trapped, workers “were burned to death jammed against locked exit doors or leaped to their deaths down elevator shafts. Screaming men, women, boys and girls crowded out on the many window ledges and threw themselves intothe streets far below. They jumped with their clothing ablaze. The hair of some of the girls steamed up aflame as they leaped. Girls placed their arms around each other as they leapt. Thud after thud sounded on the pavements. On the sides of the buildings there grew mounds of the dead and dying.” (Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, pages 325-326)
This gave further impetus for workers to Unionize, and I am proud to say my great uncle Ben Kaplan, Vice President of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, was at the heart of this movement. Thanks to our unions, things have improved for many U.S. workers. I want the same for Bengladeshis and all people. YOU GOTTA HAVE UNIONS TO INSURE YOUR HEALTH, SAFETY AND PROTECTION FROM THE GREEDY BOSSES.
When will we ever learn?
Major news: In the last 48 hours, over a half dozen major global clothing brands — from Benetton to H&M to Canadian brand Joe Fresh — have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement.
Their decision to join this legally binding agreement comes in the wake of the worst industrial workplace disaster in history and ensures that Bangladeshi garment workers aren’t forced to work in death traps. A few weeks ago in Bangladesh, nearly 2,000 workers were trapped as the Rana Plaza building — which housed several major garment factories — caved in upon itself. So far, more than 1,100 people have been confirmed killed.
But there are still major brands holding out — and Gap is the most important. Gap was in negotiations with labor leaders to join the Agreement months ago, but then inexplicably backed away. Gap says it will sign the Agreement, as long as it isn’t legally binding. Essentially Gap is saying “we’ll sign, as long as no one can hold us accountable when we don’t follow through”. As consumers, it’s our job to push Gap over the edge!
Signing this agreement would ensure that the workers making Gap clothes have access to fire extinguishers, unlocked doors, and other basic fire safety precautions that we take for granted. The Agreement funds independent monitoring and investments in the most basic safety precautions.
Here’s how to make sure Gap hears us:
Click here to write on Gap’s Facebook wall. Here are some examples of messages you can leave for the company, or you can write your own.
- Gap needs to make a stand, right now, to ensure that tragedies like Rana Plaza never happen again. Gap should stop trying to undermine the Agreement by preventing it from being legally binding. It’s time to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement.http://bit.ly/10GoOeh
- I will not shop at a store that gambles with people’s lives. By refusing to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, Gap is displaying a disgusting level of greed. Stop putting lives at risk and sign now. http://bit.ly/10GoOeh
- Gap’s refusal to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement is a disgrace to the company, and to everyone involved in decision-making. Shame on Gap. Stop dragging your feet and join the many other companies that have already signed the Agreement.http://bit.ly/10GoOeh
Or, if you don’t have Facebook, you can contact Gap at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are talking points you can use, but feel free to modify them if you’d like:
- Gap needs to make a stand, right now, to ensure that tragedies like Rana Plaza never happen again. Gap should stop trying to undermine the Agreement by preventing it from being legally-binding. It’s time to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement.
- I will not shop at a store that gambles with people’s lives. By refusing to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, Gap is displaying a disgusting level of greed. Stop putting lives at risk and sign now.
- Gap’s refusal to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement is a disgrace to the company, and to everyone involved in decision-making. Shame on Gap. Stop dragging your feet and join the many other companies that have already signed the Agreement.
According to workers who were on the scene in the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh a few weeks ago, a crack had developed in the building the day before the collapse, triggering an evacuation order. Bank employees were told to stay home on Wednesday, but garment workers sewing clothes for major western brands were ordered to return to the production floor.
The SumOfUs.org community has been campaigning for months for major global retailers like the Gap to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which would ensure basic worker protections for Bangladeshi workers. In the wake of the Tazreen fire, which killed 112 Bangladeshi garment workers last November, our community mobilized to show these brands that we are paying attention to the deplorable conditions in their supply chains.
Over 150,000 of us petitioned global brands to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. Then thousands of us donated to fund a trip by Sumi Abedin, a Tazreen factory survivor, and Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor activist, to come to the U.S. to challenge brands to take responsibility for their workers’ safety. We even held a rally outside Gap’s corporate headquarters, just days after this latest tragedy — which was covered in the New York Times. Gap might not have sourced from Rana Plaza, but if it doesn’t sign the building safety agreement, a similar disaster could strike a Gap supplier any day.
The bottom line for Gap is this: No one should die making your clothes. It’s time for Gap to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement.
Thank you for standing up for workers everywhere,
Marguerite, Claiborne, Kaytee, and the rest of us