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updated 5/19/2013 12:47:40 PM ET 2013-05-19T16:47:40

On Sunday's Up with Steve Kornacki, the panel discussed the potential political, economic, and human consequences of the Bangladesh factory collapse.

In the aftermath of the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 people, Americans have begun talking about the labor that goes into the inexpensive things they buy. On Sunday’s Up with Steve Kornacki, the panel discussed the potential political, economic, and human consequences of the tragedy.

“This is a human rights issue, this is not a different labor standards for different countries issue,” Chaumtoli Huq, a professor at New York law school said on the show. Dozens of retailers have signed a safety and workers’ rights accord already, but virtually all of the major US clothing companies have not.

“We’re going backward, we’re not going forward in terms of labor standards,” said Huq.

Watch the full discussion and watch Up with Steve Kornacki every Saturday and Sunday at 8 AM ET.

Video: Bangladesh building collapse has political consequences for the US

  1. Closed captioning of: Bangladesh building collapse has political consequences for the US

    >>> with the death toll at 1,127 from last month's factory collapse in bangladesh , three more people dead this thursday after a ceiling collapsed in cambodia, worker safety overseas emerged for politics in the u.s. friday secretary of state john kerry discussed the bangladesh disaster with that country's foreign minister.

    >> cost a how lives. everybody in america shared the agony of those losses and our hearts go out to the families. we hope that this will be able to help all of us cooperate on the issue of labor and labor standards and workers, workers' rights, obviously.

    >> getting that cooperation, however, requires both carrots and sticks. department of labor will fund bangladesh efforts to improve factory inspection there. the administration is also considering stripping bangladesh of an import tax break unless the country improves labor conditions. this week bangladesh officials raised the monday wage for workers and make it's easier for them to form unions. retailers are taking action in the wake of the deadliest garment industry disaster in history. as of this week roughly 40 companies worldwide sign order to accord drafted by labor groups to improve workplace safety in bangladesh . agreement would establish binding independent factory inspections and require companies to help finance renovation force safety. two u.s. companies have sign order to the agreement. tuesday walmart, world's largest retailer, said it would not accept the agreement and instead would conduct its own inspections in bangladesh . thursday eight democratic senators wrote to walmart and other retailers who hadn't signed the agreement.

    >> american retailers, european retailers purchase some two-thirds of blank di -- garments. we are asking the largest retailers of america to sign on to this accord to help ensure worker safety in bangladesh .

    >> next day the national retail federation blasted the pac as a one-size fits all approach without recognition how the industry operates around the world. i want to bring in chaumtoli huq, professor of -- new york law school , expertise in labor, employment rates and human rights . she worked with struggling tax loophole business necessary india. so -- the story is just -- you read the accounts of this. i think i saw last monday was the first day since the collapse that a corpse had not been found. that was the milestone. obviously just you read the stories of horror and i think everybody's instinct is what can we here in america be doing to, you know, prevent this from happening again.

    >> right. i think that -- just to step back a little bit in order to understand -- for americans here we need to look at global economic policies that have been sort of the last 20 years. we have sort of declining labor standards for u.s. workers. fast food workers walked off their jobs, fast food chains said same thing. we are not accountable because of the plan choice subcontract system. what needs to happen is that u.s. retailers need to sign the -- the safety accord and really need to get along with other international retailers, majority of the retailers are signed on, have been uk retailers and i think that -- the united states and american -- public really needs to push on our retailers to sign on to helping safety measures. this is a human rights issue. this is not a different labor standards for different country issues.

    >> i want to put a -- quote up a. this was in "the new york times." she says -- talking about the idea of holing the companies accountable for american citizens and i appreciate the unease of werner might feel knowing that the clothes on his or her back were stitched together by people working long hours in dangerous conditions but ceasing the purchase of those good was not be the compassionate course of action. boycotting brands that do business in bangladesh might only further impoverish first need to put food on their table. she is saying that -- look, you know, the collapse is terrible but garment industry is good for us and we need you to keep buying.

    >> what you need is -- to empower workers to make sure that those regulations get enforced. i mean, that's true in garment industries around the world.

    >> yeah. i don't think it is that easy. so --

    >> it is not easy.

    >> i don't -- i don't think it is that easy in terms of -- i don't think that solve it is fundamental problem or gets out your fundamental problem. the issue here -- i mean, just to take it back a little bit, is that -- the people of bangladesh don't have lots of options that are very poor. many are desperate. that's why they take these jobs, right. the -- in more difficult you make it for these jobs created, that pushes them back into the desperation they have. they had before. that's always the danger when do you this. now, perhaps if you have an enormous amount of local knowledge you can tailor the perfect solution, but it is highly unlikely the u.s. state department and large retailers adopting some big system is going to be the one that assures the right thing happen s for the workers and does night put them for the lack much opportunity they had before.

    >> distinction between buy cotting and in terms of having safety standards and regulations. what does -- it has been advocated for the workers, solidarity center , conjunction with labor unions here and other specific minded individuals is inspect factories, make sure that the -- products are made under -- wage conditions that we have here. i think that no one in the united states should say by shouldn't have fair labor standards act and shouldn't have osha because somehow i am will impede our economy. we are saying the same thing. i think that -- they are saying don't boycott. don't say i'm not going the buy something from bangladesh . don't do that. pressure and advocate for human rights standards and that uplifts the labor standards so that -- the workers do not have to make that catastrophic life-threatening choice between job and life. that's not something acceptable in 2013 . the number is over a thousand. we saw 146 dead. we are going backwards. we are not going forward in terms of labor standards .

    >> where is -- i mean, the reason that -- all of these factories are sort of proliferated in bangladesh and reason these western companies are doing business with them is, you know, it is -- cheap. right. it started in new england. started where i grew up in lowell, massachusetts . used to be textiles. we are talking about bangladesh because the labor is so cheap. i'm for improving standards, too. the companies set up shop over there because it is cheap. if you raise the standards do they just leave?

    >> such a huge point because -- you are from massachusetts . i'm from north carolina . i -- you know, my mother worked in a textile mill and came from massachusetts from -- to north carolina for that reason. and, you know, i share this great -- for on hundred years factories moved from massachusetts to north carolina because north carolina was the poorest state in the nation, the lowest wages in the nation and they had free rein to do what they wanted to do. that employed my mother and gave me the life hi and that -- you know, pushed forward our state. we have done a lot of great things from that. it was horrible for massachusetts but on that, we felt like that was a good. we felt like coming after -- coming here was good and employment was good. and -- so -- it helped north carolina . it improved standards of north carolina overall because what you had was farming, you know, hilly soil. that was your alternative.

    >> you are looking at the short term versus long-term investment in the worker. works workers in the labor force . you are looking at in the short term these jobs are -- moving women into the formal economy. there are opportunities for employees and in both the u.s. and north carolina and in massachusetts where my business is operating in lawrence, massachusetts . and bangladesh or around the world. you are also looking at the long-term growth of bangladesh 's economy, how do we empower because it is not easy, not an easy question but it is good for business. i think the business and opportunity for retailers and manufacturers alike to say that worker empowerment can be good for business, productivity, efficiencies, and things we can achieve when workers aren't worrying about how they are going to pay bills and taking care of health concern and when they are empowered to be efficient productive parts and building a company, building a global economy .

    >> every society goes through the same process. start with cheap labor. people that are more expendable like women were in the 1930s and 1940s in lowell. they start to form unions and start to get better conditions and politicians pressured to help to make things better as well. big strikes like 1912 , for example. then labor -- then companies -- if they can leave, they leave to go the cheaper places but then the same process has to start in those places. now we have a global economy and i think it makes sense to have global standards. companies like walmart.

    >> it is a process. you are slow in the process of those companies.

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