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Public Statements

Worker Protection

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, 50 years ago, in August 1963, Martin Luther King wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.''

When a factory full of human beings collapses in Bangladesh, it matters in Bucyrus and Boardman and Bellefontaine. When the concrete ceiling of a shoe factory crumbles in Cambodia, it matters in Celina and Canton.

Earlier this month we observed Workers Memorial Day. We paused and remembered those Americans who had lost their lives on the job. We honor their memories by passing laws to help ensure no other child waits by the door for a mother or a father who will never return home from work.

Out of the ashes of the Triangle Shirt Waste Factory fire 100 years ago in New York City, we fought and won workplace safety reforms that have helped save countless lives decade after decade after decade in our country. Yet even though we have passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, even though we have a National Labor Relations Board, we still have a moral responsibility to be vocal about violations to worker safety wherever it happens--whether it happens in Cleveland, in Honolulu, or in Bangladesh.

We are interconnected with this world. Our economy is linked to the women and children--to the people--whose names we don't know, the workers we don't know, who sew labels we all know in our shirts and in our sweaters. American and European retailers purchase some two-thirds of Bangladeshi garment production.

That is why, Mr. President, in the aftermath of the deadly Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh and the Wing Star Shoes collapse outside of Phnom Penh, we might have expected outraged American companies to take action. That is not exactly what happened. Which member of this multibillion-dollar industry will speak out for workers who face hazardous conditions for a minimum wage--in many cases of just $38 per month--making the clothes we wear in this country?

Today, Leader Reid, Senator Harkin of Iowa, Durbin of Illinois, Levin of Michigan, Leahy of Vermont, Murray of Washington State, Rockefeller of West Virginia, and I sent a letter to some of our leading American retailers. We are urging retailers such as Walmart to sign onto a legally binding global accord to help ensure worker safety in Bangladesh. We are asking a number of the largest retailers in America to sign onto this legally binding global accord to help ensure worker safety in Bangladesh.

Remember, as Dr. King wrote some 50 years ago, injustice anywhere threatens our ability to create a more just world.

Signing this accord from our retailers is one step our leading retailers can take to help us usher in a new era of justice in this new century.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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