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Public Statements

Letter to Major Retailers - Safety in Garment Industry

Following the world's deadliest garment worker accident at the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, a group of eight U.S. senators, led by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), has written to major retailers urging them reconsider signing the Accord on Fire Safety in Bangladesh. The senators argued that only a legally-binding global accord signed by U.S. and European retailers -- rather than self monitoring or voluntary initiatives -- will ensure worker safety in Bangladesh, where workers face hazardous conditions for a minimum wage of $38 per month.

"Just over one hundred years ago, a similar tragic accident -- the Triangle Shirt Waist fire -- spurred action to reform the treatment and safety of garment workers in the United States," the senators wrote. "Now, in the aftermath of Rana Plaza tragedy -- the deadliest garment worker accident the world has seen -- it is time to take clear, concrete steps to protect worker safety and worker rights in Bangladesh and around the world."

The senators continued: "We urge you to reconsider your decision not to sign the Accord and sign on promptly. European and American retailers purchase two-thirds of Bangladeshi garment production -- providing your companies with tremendous market influence and power to ensure that workers, many of whom toil for the Bangladeshi minimum wage of $38 per month, have safe working conditions and a voice in the workplace."

The letter, which can be viewed in its entirety below, was signed by U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA) and John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va). The senators wrote to the following retailers: the Cato Corporation, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kohl's, Target, Macy's, J.C. Penney, Gap Inc., Mango, George Weston Limited, VF Corporation, The Children's Place Stores, and Corte Ingles.

May 16, 2013

The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh underscores the urgent need for retailers to adopt a common, legally binding response that ensures basic workplace safety and fundamental worker rights are guaranteed in your facilities and those of your subcontractors around the world.

Just over one hundred years ago, a similar tragic accident -- the Triangle Shirt Waist fire -- spurred action to reform the treatment and safety of garment workers in the United States. Now, in the aftermath of Rana Plaza tragedy -- the deadliest garment worker accident the world has seen-- it is time to take clear, concrete steps to protect worker safety and worker rights in Bangladesh and around the world.

We understand that even in advance of the Rana Plaza collapse several retailers have been in negotiations to address longstanding and systemic worker safety issues stemming from a global race-to-the-bottom in standards. We urge the continuation of these negotiations, and we applaud steps taken by Inditex (Zara), PVH, Tesco, Primark, H&M, C&A, and Abercrombie & Fitch to sign the May 12, 2013 Accord on Fire Safety in Bangladesh developed by key stakeholders. This is an important effort that will save the lives of Bangladeshi garment workers.

We urge you to reconsider your decision not to sign the Accord and sign on promptly. European and American retailers purchase two-thirds of Bangladeshi garment production -- providing your companies with tremendous market influence and power to ensure that workers, many of whom toil for the Bangladeshi minimum wage of $38 per month, have safe working conditions and a voice in the workplace.

Recent events, including four workplace catastrophes in Bangladesh since November 2012, show that voluntary initiatives and self-monitoring are not effective approaches to ensuring Bangladeshi worker safety. These tragedies were preventable, especially since there has been a serious pattern of putting workers in hazardous and life-threatening environments. More than 1,000 families are living with the consequences of this negligence. Your companies are in a position to put an end to these tragedies by requiring your suppliers to follow transparent processes and clear, enforceable standards for worker safety and basic human rights.

We urge you to sign the Accord on Fire Safety in Bangladesh to help prevent future tragedies. Your leadership on this issue is of the utmost importance.

Sincerely,

This letter was sent to the following recipients:

Mr. John P. D. Cato
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
The Cato Corporation
8100 Denmark Road
Charlotte, NC 28273

Mr. Isak Andic
President and Member of Executive Committee
Mango MNG Holding, S.L
c/ Mercaders 9-11,
Polígono Industrial Riera de Caldes
Apartado de correos 280
E- 08184 Palau-solità i Plegamans
Barcelona, España

Mr. Galen G. Weston
Executive Chairman
George Weston Limited
Corporate Office
22 St. Clair Avenue East
Toronto, Canada
M4T 2S7

Mr. Norman Matthews
Chairman of the Board
The Children's Place Retail Stores, Inc.
500 Plaza Drive
Secaucus, NJ 07094

Mr. Mike Duke
President and Chief Executive Officer
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611

Mr. Myron E. Ullman III
Chief Executive Officer
J. C. Penney Company, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 75024

Mr. Isidoro Álvarez
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Corte Inglés
C/ Hermosilla Nº 112
28009 MADRID
Spain

Mr. Glenn Murphy
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Gap Inc
2 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

Mr. Gregg W. Steinhafel
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Mr. Kevin Mansell
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
Kohl's Department Stores
N56 W17000 Ridgewood Drive
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051

Mr. Eric C. Wiseman
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
VF Corporation
105 Corporate Center Blvd.
Greensboro, NC 27408

Mr. Terry J. Lundgren
Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer
Macy's Inc.
151 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001

Mr. Edward S. Lampert
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Sears Holdings Corporation
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179


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