Walmart’s Negligence Leads to More Worker Deaths in Bangladesh
Over 120 workers were killed in a fire at Bangladeshi textile company, Tazreen Fashions Ltd., which supplies garments to Walmart, late Saturday night. The factory, based in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, had been deemed “high risk” by one of Walmart’s own contracted assessors, and yet the company still bought goods from them.
This latest round of worker deaths along Walmart’s supply chain demonstrates the company’s unwillingness to implement its own ethical sourcing standards in a meaningful way. It comes months after seafood guestworkers supplying to Walmart walked out after exposing forced labor right here in the country; weeks after the company’s US based warehouse workers went on strike after experiencing retaliation for demanding Walmart resolve similar health/safety conditions in California and Illinois; and only days after Walmart’s associates went on strike against similar unfair labor practices in the stores.
Saturday’s tragedy was unfortunately not the first time a fire has killed Walmart supply-chain workers in Bangladesh. Walmart suppliers in the country have a history of locking external doors to keep workers in the building, and of having no emergency exits in the event of a fire. Less than 2 years ago on December 10, 2011, a similar fire broke out in another textile factory—killing 21 workers, many of them jumping to their deaths. In response garment workers from the Bangladesh Worker Solidarity Center toured the US in an effort to hold WalMart and other multinational corporations that buy garments from Bangladeshi suppliers accountable for the treatment and conditions of workers.
At that time, Jobs with Justice joined many others in asking Walmart to more aggressively monitor the safety conditions in these factories and stop buying clothing from unsafe facilities. JwJ activists also signed petitions demanding support for worker leaders who were facing violent retaliation. Walmart did nothing, and shortly afterwards, Bangladeshi labor activist Aminul Islam was murdered for his trade union activism.
Last week’s Black Friday actions and the fear they instilled in Walmart executives demonstrated what was possible if we join together across sector and community to expand the rights/protections of Walmart workers from factory to store. Only through more widespread collective action will we be able to change Walmart. And only by holding Walmart accountable will we be able to improve the conditions of workers worldwide.
OUR Walmart associates, warehouse workers and community leaders have stood in solidarity with Bangladeshi workers before. And like Cynthia Murray of OUR Walmart said in a speech earlier this year, we won’t stop until all workers win justice.