More than a dozen European brands have joined a factory safety pact, but a Who's Who of American companies has declined. Here's why.
The death toll from the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry–the collapse last month of the factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh–is over 1,100. The horror intensified pressure on garment retailers to take responsibility for their workplaces overseas.
In response, more than a dozen European retailers and brands, including H&M and Benetton, have signed on to a groundbreaking agreement that requires them to pay for rigorous independent inspections of their factories and for safety upgrades–including basics such as fire escapes, which many currently lack.
Of American companies, so far only Abercombie & Fitch and PVC Corp, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, have signed on. Giant clothing retailers like Walmart, Gap, JCPenney and Target have so far declined to join in, apparently out of fear that they could be taken to court in the U.S. by labor groups and others.
Gap has said it would consider signing if the accord’s language on arbitration was changed. Walmart said it would conduct its own in-depth inspections of 100% of its factories in Bangladesh.
But a non-independent inspection–by an engineer who pointed out dangerous cracks in the Rana Plaza building–didn’t close the dangerous facility in Bangladesh.
The issue is not wages, said Chris Hayes on All In on Thursday. It’s basic safety: “making sure a building doesn’t fall on top of you and kill you.”