U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), who last month urged major American retailers to improve the deplorable working conditions at the factories that produce their goods in Bangladesh, today hailed the industry's decision to increase safety regulations in that country's garment plants.
On April 29, Meng sent letters to the chief executive officers of Wal-Mart, Gap and the American Apparel Footwear Association, a major trade group, demanding that they take leading roles to better protect the subcontracted workers they use in Bangladesh's clothing factories. All three are among the retailers taking part in the industry's safety effort, as are other companies. The Congresswoman wrote the letters in the wake of the April 24 factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,127 workers.
"The agreement by major U.S. retailers to implement a new program to improve fire and safety regulations in Bangladesh's factories is welcome news, and we appreciate them listening to our demands," said Meng, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "While we still need to see what the final plan will look like, this effort is a good first step. We hope that it will finally end the long greedy practice of U.S. companies putting profits ahead of safety. It is time for American retailers to finally take responsibility for the widespread problems that have long plagued the factories they use in Bangladesh, and we'll be watching closely as the industry further develops this critical initiative. It is essential that the final plan go far enough so that retailers are held accountable for the lives of those whose work provides their corporate profits.
Anything less will be unacceptable."
The effort by retailers to improve safety at Bangladesh's plants is being spearheaded by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit Washington-based think tank. The effort will be led by former Senators Olympia Snowe, a Republican, and George Mitchell, a Democrat, both from Maine. The center said the targeted release of the plan is by early July.