Bangladeshi Factory Fire Survivors, Truck Drivers, Manufacturing & Warehouse Workers from Walmart Suppliers Demand Safety & Health Improvements Throughout Supply-Chain
New York, NY- Survivors of last year’s horrific fire at Tazreen factory in Bangladesh, which produced apparel for Walmart, joined U.S.-based workers from across Walmart’s supply chain to pressure the retailer to make necessary improvements to unsafe work conditions that can prevent future tragedies.
The fire killed 112 garment workers and was among the worst factory fires in the country’s history. Walmart blocked potential life-saving upgrades to improve safety conditions at the Tazreen factory, has not offered compensation to the workers’ families and has taken no responsibility for the fire.
“I decided to come to the U.S. to bring my message directly to Walmart because I don’t want anyone else to have to live through a horrible fire like I faced at Tazreen. I can’t remain silent- Walmart must improve conditions in Bangladeshi garment factories before the death toll from fires climbs any higher,” said Suma Abedin, a Bangladeshi garment worker who jumped out of the burning factory and survived the November 2012 fire.
“Workers in the supply chain – from Bangladesh to the local WalMart counter- are getting shortchanged while the companies are making billions,” said Gonzalo Chirino, a NJ Port truck driver. “Some workers, like the ones in the factory in Bangladesh, paid with their lives.”
Abedin and the supply-chain workers led a “funeral procession” to the home of Michelle Burns, member of Walmart’s Board of Directors, in remembrance of the deceased fire victims and delivered recommendations and their own set of core principles for improving workplace safety:
“The families of the workers who died in the Tazreen fire are living in extreme poverty because they lost their primary wage-earner. Meanwhile, Walmart and other brands have refused to pay any money to the families of the victims and they are left wondering how they will support their children,” said Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “The Bangladesh Fire & Building Safety Agreement is the only program that includes worker representation and requires brands to pay enough so that factories can afford to make necessary repairs. As long as corporations refuse to sign the agreement, Bangladeshi workers will suffer because Walmart and others won’t pay one penny more to protect the lives of workers who have made these companies so profitable.”
Walmart sets the standards for workers in its supply chain, and yet it turns a blind-eye to dangerous workplace conditions and supplier environments in the U.S. and abroad. The retailer’s Board of Directors has the power to influence policy change to protect workers, but instead they remain silent.
“We are calling on consumers and community members to support supply chain workers in their struggle so that each worker can truly enjoy what Walmart touts as its own Standards for Suppliers: decent wages, protection under the law and the right to peacefully form or join trade unions,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Senior Organizer with ALIGN.
“We are standing up for a safer workplace environment because too many people of color are suffering from dangerous conditions in warehouses, where we are often not given the necessary training and protective equipment,” said Reynalda Cruz, worker at a NJ pharmaceutical supplier for Walmart. “We are tired of this treatment and demand improvements in order to do our jobs safely.”