Pushing for Worker Safety

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By Alice Kenny

Today, April 24, 2014, marks the tragic one-year anniversary of the worst disaster in garment industry history, the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,129 workers.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan has taken an active role keeping this issue in the forefront.  He joined a delegation this past December that included New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, whose state pension investments include companies that contract with garment factories and Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to Bangladesh to observe garment industry conditions and meet with survivors and the families of victims.  Msgr. Sullivan published his concerns on blog posts and more recently in a New York Times editorial co-authored with Mr. Appelbaum.

“All of us must help minimize the human casualties of our global economy and ensure that the dignity of working people doesn’t end up on the clearance rack,” they wrote.

In this recent episode of JustLove, Catholic Charities’ weekly radio show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, The Catholic Channel 129, Msgr. Sullivan spoke again with Comptroller DiNapoli.

“It was a very moving experience,” DiNapoli said about their trip to Bangladesh, “with you, from the spiritual dimension and me from the investor side with our perspective… about social justice and worker rights.”

While western retailers and apparel brands are now pushing to improve safety at the Bangladesh factories they do business with, results, twelve months later, have fallen short.

Inspectors, The New York Times reports, have found problems in every factory they checked including, “buildings so overloaded that their columns had cracked, flammable fabric storage areas adjoining work spaces and fire stairways leading to the factory floor rather than outside the building.”

Second only to China, Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry employs between three and four million workers.  Its history of corruption and slipshod work leaves open the potential for still greater loss of life.

“These heart-wrenching tragedies are not a sustainable business model,” Mr. DiNapoli said.  “They cannot keep this industry going if people are going to be maimed, injured or killed.”

Learn more on JustLove.

Read the full story in The New York Times

 

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