After Deadly Bangladesh Factory Collapse, Rep. Miller Calls on Wal-Mart to Sign onto Binding Worker Safety Agreement

WASHINGTON – After a building collapse in Bangladesh that has reportedly killed more than 200 garment workers this week, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the senior Democratic member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, called on Wal-Mart, which subcontracted with this facility, to commit to improving conditions.

“The recent actions taken by the company on a voluntary basis are not working to alleviate the deadly negligence that continues to cause so much human loss and suffering. What is needed are the binding commitments that are included in [the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety] Agreement,” wrote Miller. “As one of the nation’s wealthiest and largest employers, Wal-Mart has a unique role and responsibility to do the right thing and set the best standard not just here in America, but in the rest of the world. The situation in Bangladesh remains unacceptable for any employer much less our nation’s largest.”

The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement is a non-governmental organization proposal that would help to prevent these types of disasters from occurring. The agreement would establish a system of independent factory inspections and comprehensive preventive measures that includes consulting with workers whose lives are in danger as a result of sweatshop conditions employed by suppliers.

Earlier this month, Rep. Miller met with human rights leaders and a survivor of the Tazreen factory fire, which killed 112 workers in November 2012, and called on U.S. brands to commit resources to prevent fires.

Read the letter:

April 25, 2013

Mr. Michael Duke
Chief Executive Officer
Wal-Mart
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611

Dear Mr. Duke:

Yet another tragedy occurred in Bangladesh yesterday, where an eight-story building that housed five garment factories collapsed, killing at least 194 people, injuring more than 1,000 others, and leaving an unknown number of people trapped in the rubble. According to media reports, factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected. Of greater concern is that these deaths were apparently forewarned and preventable, because a bank in the same building evacuated its staff. According to a Bloomberg News report on Wednesday, a BRAC Bank spokesman said the bank had “evacuated our staff yesterday… Other commercial units did not do the same.”

Only five months ago, a devastating fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory killed at least 112 garment workers. In both cases, Wal-Mart was linked to the factories as a direct buyer or through intermediaries.

In view of this, I would ask Wal-Mart to move immediately to join efforts to provide appropriate relief and compensation; support a thorough investigation into the causes of the building collapse; and, most importantly to prevent future tragedies, join the binding Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement that has been proposed by non-governmental organizations worldwide and lead the corporate retail world in preventing these disasters from happening. The Agreement would establish a system of independent factory inspections and comprehensive preventive measures that include consulting with workers whose lives are in jeopardy as a result of sweatshop conditions employed by your suppliers.

The recent actions taken by the company on a voluntary basis are not working to alleviate the deadly negligence that continues to cause so much human loss and suffering. What are needed are the binding commitments that are included in this Agreement.

As one of the nation’s wealthiest and largest employers, Wal-Mart has a unique role and responsibility to do the right thing and set the best standard not just here in America, but in the rest of the world. The situation in Bangladesh remains unacceptable for any employer much less our nation’s largest.

I would urge you to take a personal interest and active role in resolving this issue as soon as possible. Again, I urge you to join the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement and ensure that garment workers do not continue to tragically lose their lives.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER
Senior Democratic Member

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