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I wonder who stitched my fleece. What’s their name? Do they have a family? Where are they from? What language do they speak? Will I ever meet them?
One month ago, 28 workers were killed when a multi-story fire broke out at a sweatshop just outside Dhaka in Bangladesh. Multiple exits were illegally blocked and victims were burned to death, trampled to death, suffocated, or fell to their death as they jumped trying to escape the flames.
This particular sweatshop supplies clothing to some of the top brands in North America – some you might be wearing today: Abercrombie & Fitch, Target, JC Penney, GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, North Face and more. It is not the first time that a fire has broken out in a Bangladeshi sweatshop, and, without a change, it won’t be the last.
Clothing companies that receive their merchandise from Ha-Meem Group, the owners of the sweatshop, were petitioned to take responsibility and pay out a fair compensation to workers’ families.
But is it their responsibility to do so?
GAP didn’t block the fire exits, but they do buy clothing from a company that pays their workers only $24 a month. Abercrombie didn’t ignite the flames, but part of their $2.02 billion dollars in sales is possible because of underpaid workers in horrible conditions.
Whose responsibility is it?
In the case of the Ha-Meem Group and the retail stores that offer their clothing items around the world, the responsibility is ours.
We are the only ones with more power than the CEO’s, CFO’s, VP’s and stock holders. It is our money that they bank on, literally.
Our desire for the t-shirts, blue jeans, and fashion accessories offered by these companies is fueling the flames of exploitation, injustice and modern-day slavery.
In Bangladesh, some are fighting for third party safety inspections, funded by the brands and retailers above, but these companies won’t shell out money without reason – without voices from the shopping public demanding it be done.
With so many turning their backs on another person’s security and right to a safe working environment, shouldn’t we go against the flow and demand more measures be taken that ensure our clothing and gear doesn’t come at the price of human lives?
According to Patrick Schmitt and Change.org, “The labor activists leading negotiations with the clothing companies have specifically told us that the petition Change.org members signed played a significant role in getting brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger on board, and will play a critical role in pressuring Abercrombie, OshKosh and others to do the same.”
“GAP, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger are all taking the first steps toward providing fair compensation for the families of those killed and instituting an urgent program of factory inspections.”
Darcie Nolan is an undergraduate student transferring into the CU School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is also a co-founder of Eye See Media, a recognized “top 7 international venture.” www.eyeseeonline.com.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Darcie Nolan at Darcie.firstname.lastname@example.org.