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Letter to Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh - Bangladesh Government on Worker Safety and Rights

As friends of the Bangladeshi people, we strongly urge Bangladesh's authorities to join in a comprehensive, concrete and coordinated plan to ensure worker safety and secure workers' rights in Bangladesh. Only months after the Tazreen fire, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building further underlines the importance of taking such action without delay.

In recent years, a number of us have raised issues directly with the Bangladesh authorities regarding worker safety and rights in Bangladesh. This includes, among other issues, the unresolved killing of Aminul Islam, fire safety, worker safety, the right to organize and charges against labor rights organizations.

We are aware of the role that the garment industry has played in providing critically-needed employment opportunities for Bangladeshis. We are also aware that a number of steps have been pledged to address issues pertaining to worker safety and rights. However, continued tragedies, including the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse, indicate that many workers have not had an effective voice in the workplace enabling them to address concerns with uncompromising owners and/or managers -- even when those concerns are a matter of urgent, life-and-death danger. They also seem to indicate that dangerous conditions exist on a substantial scale in the industry.

We fully understand that there are multiple factors which brought about this tragedy and others like it, and it is critical that all key stakeholders take action. However, we believe there is simply no substitute for tough, comprehensive, uncompromising government support for legislation and fully-resourced law enforcement and administrative action -- including the right to organize and form unions in the Export Processing Zones -- that both empowers workers and prevents more accidents from happening.

As Members of Congress deeply concerned with the well-being of the people of Bangladesh, we urge you to put the highest priority on aggressively enacting and enforcing comprehensive reforms that addresses these concerns and join in a broad-based effort to ensure that workers in Bangladesh are assured basic safety and internationally-recognized rights in the workplace.

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