Preventing Another Rana Plaza: A Model for Holding Corporations Accountable

Cathy Feingold

Cathy Feingold Director, AFL-CIO International Dept.

The roof collapsed, trapping thousands of workers for days. The world watched, in horror, as rescue crews scrambled to pull working people out of the debris. When the search was over, 1,134 had died and approximately 2,500 were injured.

This tragic incident occurred on April 24, 2013, in Dhaka District, Bangladesh. The collapse of Rana Plaza brought worldwide scrutiny to the poor and unsafe conditions of sweatshops in this Asian nation. The victims were garment workers who were sewing brand-name clothing for multinational corporations. Most of them earned just enough money to feed their families.

The tragedy in Rana Plaza shed light on the practices of multinational corporations that utilize the global supply chain to lower costs, even if this means risking the lives of hardworking and vulnerable people. At the same time, this unfortunate incident pushed many of these corporations to work with the global labor movement to reach agreements aimed at improving working conditions in Bangladesh.

As a result, today IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union joined leading fashion brands in signing a new Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

The new agreement, which is an extension to one signed in May 2013, will extend independent, expert building safety inspections for three more years for all covered factories, ensuring that safety improvements achieved under the first accord will be maintained, and that new problems in any factory will be addressed. The hope is that this agreement can become a model for holding corporations accountable in global supply chains throughout various sectors.

The agreement, announced at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct being held Paris, so far has been signed by Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, H&M, Inditex (Zara), C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki, Loblaw and PVH. A further seven brands—Esprit, Hüren, Bestseller, Wibra, Schmidt Group, N Brown Group and Specialty Fashion Group Australia—have committed to signing.

IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanches and UNI Global Union Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman issued a press release expressing support for the agreement.

According to this release, the new agreement “puts greater emphasis on the right of workers to organize and join a union, recognizing worker empowerment is fundamental to assuring workplace safety.”

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work