International solidarity campaign
Today, millions of garment workers work in factories that function as literal deathtraps. Just look at the numbers. Since 2005, more than 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in preventable factory fires and building collapses. Three of the largest industrial disasters in the history of the garment industry – the Tazreen Fashions factory fire (112 workers dead), the Ali Enterprises factory fire (315 workers dead), and the Rana Plaza collapse (1,132 workers dead) – all have occurred in the last year alone, as the frequency and intensity of industrial disasters in the garment industry accelerates rapidly.
In the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, USAS and labor unions across the world joined Bangladeshi workers in holding actions to demand that brands take responsibility for the worker safety crisis in Bangladesh. These actions forced over 80 apparel brands and retailers to signed on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a historic agreement between global and Bangladeshi unions and apparel brands that addresses the root causes of industrial disasters in the garment industry. The agreement represents a breakthrough for workers rights in the garment industry. Never before in the modern apparel industry have brands been forced to agree to a legally binding agreement forcing them to pay higher prices for their garments, give unions access to their factories, and commit to a multi-year sourcing relationship with their factories. This agreement also represents a major foothold in the industry for workers and their unions to make future demands on brands related to wages and working conditions.
As students, we can build a movement on our campuses to demand that the largest apparel brands in the world take responsibility for worker safety and improve conditions in the garment industry. By leveraging our financial relationships with brands that produce in Bangladesh, we can help improve conditions in factories throughout the second largest garment-exporting country in the world. If our university licensees signed onto the Accord, they would be forced to improve safety conditions in all of their factories, not just their collegiate ones in the country.