Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothing. Many of the garment factories are death traps. In December 2010, 29 workers were killed at a Gap supplier factory. Gap is a major producer in Bangladesh and labor groups are urging Gap to become an industry leader in factory safety. Gap was not a buyer at the sites of the most recent disasters – Tazreen and Rana Plaza – but their leadership could help prevent further tragedies from happening in the Bangladesh garment industry.

In the News

The Nation – May 12, 2014
NYU Just Dropped Its Contract With JanSport – Why Is That a Victory for Global Labor Rights?
“The fallout of the Rana Plaza disaster put it under global scrutiny, and is now one of the major holdouts in the industry, along with Walmart and GAP, who have balked at signing the Accord. Instead, these manufacturers have tried to advance a weaker factory safety agreement, devoid of the crucial legally binding measures that would directly, contractually, hold global manufacturers responsible for factory conditions.”

Human Rights Watch – November 14, 2013
Bangladesh: Factory Deaths Could Have Been Prevented
“According to documents found in the burnt-out factory and copied, Aswad’s customers over the past twelve months included Walmart, Gap, American Eagle, H&M, Primark, Asda, NEXT, Carrefour, Lacoste, Just Jeans, Target (Australia) and Woolworths (Australia)… Gap also said the accident underscores why “more needs to be done to address building and fire safety issues in Bangladesh.”

Minyanville – October 11, 2013 
Wal-Mart, Gap Continue to Notch Up Death Tolls in Factory Accidents
Another blaze at a Bangladesh garment factory took the lives of nine workers and injured nearly 50 others. During the evening shift on Tuesday, October 8, a faulty heating machine at the Aswad Composite Mills, near Dhaka, caught fire as employees produced clothing for major brands including Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Gap (NYSE:GPS)… But self-checks, like those in the alliance, of top-tier factories are not preventing disaster either. The Atlantic reported that a Pakistani factory where there had been a fire that killed 289 workers in September “had received a clean bill of health from industry inspectors just three weeks prior, while a 2010 blaze in Bangladesh that left 29 workers [dead] had been previously inspected by Gap and other customers. Tazreen itself had received audits by Wal-Mart and other buyers, yet no investments were made to address obvious fire hazards.”

ITV – October 9, 2013
Gap confirms indirect link to Bangladesh factory fire
“The deputy manager of the factory where nine garment workers were killed last night has told ITV News that six British high street brands used Aswad Composite Mills. They are: Next, Primark, George, Gap, H&M, and Morrisons.”

The Guardian – October 9, 2013
Burned down Aswad factory slipped through new safety net
“Asda’s owner Walmart and Gap have signed a less stringent US deal, known as the Bangladesh worker safety alliance. This also failed to cover the Aswad factory.”

Al Jazeera America – August 20, 2013
Children as young as 12 make clothes with Old Navy tags in a Dhaka factory with no fire exit or fire extinguishers

Huffington Post, Kevin Thomas – July 12, 2013
The Real Issue is Accountability
“There’s no truth to the idea being propagated by US retailers like Gap and Walmart that signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh might open them up to frivolous lawsuits… The reason Gap and Walmart have been unwilling to join the Accord has nothing to do with the “different” US legal environment. It has everything to do with avoiding accountability.”

Press Release, ILRF and WRC – July 10, 2013
Labor Rights Watchdogs Call Walmart/Gap Plan a Sham

New York Times, Steven Greenhouse and Stephanie Clifford – July 10, 2013
U.S. Retailers Offer Plan for Safety at Factories
“That differs from the way retailers in the European-dominated plan take responsibility for safety violations. The Europeans pledge to ensure that there is money to fix serious fire and building safety problems in any of the factories they use in Bangladesh. Under the American plan, the onus is on factory owners to improve their workplaces. Unlike the European group, the North American retailers are not promising to finance needed improvements, outside of the loans. Essentially, if a factory is not up to par and does not fix the problems itself, the American retailers say they will no longer do business there.”

The Nation, Lee Fang – July 10, 2013
US Retailers Launch Lobby Blitz to Sell Weak Bangladesh Safety Plan

The Nation, Lee Fang – July 09, 2013
Think Tank Releasing Rival Bangladesh Safety Accord Receives Funds From Walmart and Its Lobbyists
“Walmart’s financial links to the groups associated with the upcoming labor plan are a reminder of the corporation’s extensive political reach, which extends well beyond campaign contributions and other traditional forms of influence.”

New York Times, Steven Greenhouse – May 30, 2013
U.S. Retailers Announce New Factory Safety Plan
“Feeling pressure from consumer and labor groups for not doing more to ensure factory safety in Bangladesh, Wal-Mart, Gap and numerous other retailers along with the nation’s main retail federations are seeking to forge a new plan to promote safety in that country’s apparel industry.”

The Huffington Post, Michelle Chen – May 29, 2013
Anger Rising in Bangladesh, Putting Big Brands Under Pressure
“Gap and Walmart may be worried that by joining the accord they would set a precedent that would empower workers not only in Bangladesh but also in other countries as well to demand dignity and respect for their basic rights. The accord is a shift from voluntary self-regulation to a binding labor-management agreement.”

The Huffington Post, Michelle Chen – May 28, 2013
From Dhaka to Broadway, Protests Target Bangladesh Factory Death Traps
“Bangladeshi workers, who took to the streets after the Rana collapse and have braved anti-labor crackdowns, will play a key role in resisting the neoliberal manufacturing model–if they can continue to fight political suppression of activists and push for better wages and working conditions. They need all the help they can get from consumers and workers at the other end of the manufacturing chain. To connect struggles at both the storefront and the shop floor, the boundless flow of global capital must be matched by a groundswell of transnational solidarity.”

New York Times, Steven Greenhouse – May 22, 2013
U.S. Retailers See Big Risk in Safety Plan for Factories in Bangladesh
“It may be that those retailers who worry about legal liability are pointing to an outdated sense of what liability is for actions taken abroad.”

KTVU – May 21, 2013
San Francisco: Protesters Picket Gap Over Bangladesh Factory Safety

Press release, USAS and ILRF – May 21, 2013
Protesters Call on Gap to Sign Bangladesh Safety Accord

CNN, Emily Jane Fox – May 21, 2013
Why I’m Protesting Against Gap Over Bangladesh

Los Angeles Times, James Brudney and Catherine Fisk – May 17, 2013
Wal-Mart, Gap skirt the issue
“Apparel firms such as Gap and Wal-Mart willingly sign legally enforceable agreements all the time — many of which provide for binding arbitration — in the course of their business dealings around the world, including with the factories that make their garments. What is different here is the purpose of the agreement: The accord would help protect workers’ rights and workers’ lives rather than simply facilitate the buying and selling of apparel for corporate profit. It would be unfortunate if that difference is what is keeping Gap, Wal-Mart and others from signing this crucial initiative.”

New York Times, Steven Greenhouse – May 16, 2013
Groups Press Big Retailers on Safety Overseas
In a letter released on Thursday, the 123 signers, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Unitarian Universalist Association and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., urged retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target, Sears and Gap to sign on to the factory safety plan that more than 30 European retailers embraced this week.

New York Times, Steven Greenhouse – May 13, 2013
Major Retailers Join Bangladesh Safety Plan

New York Times, Steven Greenhouse – May 10, 2013
Retailers Are Pressed on Safety at Factories

ABC News, Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross – May 9, 2013
Union Protests to Target Gap over Bangladesh Worker Safety

New York Times Editorial – May 4, 2013
Worker Safety in Bangladesh and Beyond
“Big garment buyers like Walmart, H&M and Gap have tremendous power to improve conditions in that market. Industry officials and labor groups have been discussing a legally binding agreement requiring Western brands and retailers to conduct independent factory inspections and to help pay for factory renovations, like adding external fire exits and smoke alarms. Some labor groups estimate it would cost $3 billion over five years to bring Bangladesh’s roughly 4,500 factories into compliance with building and fire standards. That is a small price to pay given the country’s $18 billion in annual clothing exports, or $90 billion over five years. Two companies — PVH, the parent of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and the German retailer Tchibo — have signed on to such an agreement. Other companies must get on board, and the industry should, eventually, extend it to other developing countries.”

Boston Globe Editorial – May 5, 2013
Global brands must step in to protect worker safety
“Labor-rights groups are calling on all global brands — including Walmart, Gap, and H&M — to sign a building and safety agreement for Bangladesh, a binding commitment to require more rigorous inspections and more transparency about the results. Bangladesh’s government also needs to take more responsibility for protecting workers. It’s not a panacea against abuse, but it is a useful step in preventing another Rana Plaza.”

Bloomberg View – May 2, 2013
How to Fix Bangladesh’s Factories
“Retailers can ensure factory improvements are made by signing on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, a program promoted by workers’ rights advocates. The agreement would establish a chief inspector—independent of companies, trade unions, and factories—to execute a safety program. Audits of hazards would be made public. Corrective actions recommended by the inspector would be mandatory. Retailers would agree to pay factories enough so that they could afford renovations, and retailers would be forbidden from doing business with noncompliant facilities. These obligations would be enforceable through the courts in retailers’ home countries. Signing now offers protection for Bangladesh’s workers against factory catastrophes.”

New York Times Editorial – April 25, 2013
Another preventable tragedy in Bangladesh
“The severity and frequency of these disasters are an indictment of global clothing brands and retailers like Walmart, H&M and the Gap, which buy billions of dollars of clothes from Bangladesh but have so far refused to demand and pay for adequate safeguards at the factories that fill their orders… Companies like Walmart and the Gap have offered some half-measures on safety for garment workers, but they can do much more. In addition to demanding and paying for safer factories, they need to put pressure on the owners and Ms. Hasina to allow unions and improve inspections. They are Bangladesh’s customers, and what they say carries real weight. It’s time they spoke up.”