By Michael Messina
The foundation of Labor 411 centers around a basic premise: Every worker in every walk of life should be treated fairly and given a chance at economic well-being. Our list of union-made products and services help consumers join in the cause of supporting fair and safe labor practices.
Having said that, outsourcing has always been something of a problem because labor rights in certain countries are almost non-existent, making for cheap labor (Bangladesh minimum wage stands at $37 a month) and unsafe conditions. Bangladesh and its garment industry have recently been highlighted in the news because of egregious violations that have led to unthinkable losses of life, like the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed over 1,100 people.
The world has responded!
I, we, get excited here when labor history begins to bloom before our eyes. A certain amount of cautious optimism is in order as companies from around the world are coming together to address the inhumane conditions in Bangladesh.
An alliance of 70 retailers, mostly European, has come together in an effort to correct the substandard factory conditions in Bangladesh. They have agreed to inspect all factories within nine months and from there provide any funds necessary for safety improvements. Only a few American companies are a part of this accord, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Sean John, and PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
Other American companies, including Walmart, Gap, Target, Kohl’s and Macy’s, announced an agreement of their own that many labor groups are calling an inadequate response. Theirs, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, calls for a 12-month inspection plan with monetary contributions from each company of up to $1 million a year, depending on the amount of production they have done in Bangladesh, for improvements.
The opposition to the American plan is calling the monetary commitment unambitious, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Why a cap at $1 million a year? The estimated $40 to $50 million that will be accrued over the next five years of the plan is a drop in the bucket for these massive companies.
This is all a fantastic step in the right direction, but we would love to see a bigger and better commitment from more American companies.
Change is at hand and the day it spread worldwide will be a glorious day indeed. In the meantime, Labor 411 is here to help you to continue to buy union-made products. And when that option isn’t available, buy American made. Check the label!