Bangladeshi government, garment owners, to lobby members of U.S. Congress on 7/15/14

On Tuesday, representatives of both the Bangladeshi government and an industry body for garment manufacturers and exporters will be lobbying members of the U.S. Congress.   They will be looking to restore tariff benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences that have been suspended since last year by the Obama Administration.  The benefits were suspended by the U.S. government shortly after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building left over 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers dead in a preventable factory disaster.

The Bangladeshi government and BGMEA will be meeting with several Democratic Congress members, including John Conyers, Sander Levin, Gary Peters, George Miller, and Mike Honda, and the staff members of others, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jerry Connolly, Sheila Jackson, and Keith Ellison.  The parties will be discussing progress on a set of demands that the U.S. government has made of the Bangladeshi garment sector and the Bangladeshi government to improve safety and foster unionization.

A hasty return to better trade terms between Bangladesh and one of its main customers, the United States, would remove a substantial source of pressure currently pushing garment owners and the Bangladeshi government to allow improved working conditions and unionization.  Such a step might also signal brands like Wal-Mart and Children’s Place that the U.S. government feels enough progress has been made to return to the status quo in trade terms when in fact much remains to be done on both building safety and worker rights in the Bangladeshi garment sector.

The meeting is being organized by a Bangladeshi diaspora group that seeks participation of the Bangladeshi community in the Democratic Party.  Members of the media have also been invited.

Global Day of Action: Wal-Mart, Children’s Place, Pay up!


On April 24, 2013, Aklima Khanam was forced to go to work despite serious structural problems at Rana Plaza, the building her garment factory was in.  A half hour after commencing, the electricity went out.  When the backup generator was started, the building collapsed, pinning Khanam under a machine for 12 hours.  1,136 others died in one of the biggest industrial disasters in the history of the industry.

Khanam and the other workers have received a few promises from brands like Children’s Place and Wal-Mart, but they have yet to receive full and fair compensation for their physical and mental traumas.  Moreover, the physical infrastructure of the Bangladeshi garment sector is in a dire state according to union activists like Aleya Akter of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation, and another disaster like Rana Plaza is just a matter of time.  Even so, companies like Wal-Mart refuse to sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that would provide the most effective means to prevent future tragedies like this one by promoting independent health and safety inspections and providing workers a voice in their workplace through a union.

Stand with Khanam, Akter, the BGIWF and many others this April 24, 2014, at an action in your hometown that will tell the brands that it’s time to pay up and additionally to sign the accord!