Last Tuesday, a five-story crack opened up in a massive industrial building on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital. Building managers cleared the unsafe building, which housed factories making clothes for western companies like Benetton, Children’s Place, Joe Fresh, JC Penney, and Primark.
The next day, the employees who worked in a bank and retail stores on the lower floors were told to stay home again — but managers of the six garment factories in the upper floors ordered their employees, most of who are young women, to come to work anyway. Workers protested, but the bosses threatened that anyone who refused to return to the shop floor would lose a month’s pay.
Less than an hour after garment workers sat down at their sewing machines to begin their 11-hour day, the building collapsed. Over 400 are confirmed dead, and countless more are still missing. It’s the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry.
As global brands like Walmart and Benetton rush to deny that they had anything to do with the tragedy at Rana Plaza, staff from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (or BCWS) are interviewing survivors and searching the ruins to reveal which corporations did business there, and helping make sure that the compensation that companies are committing will reach all the families that have lost loved ones. They did the same thing after a fire at the Tazreen factory killed 112 workers last November. It was their investigations that proved conclusively that Walmart was complicit in the tragedy, despite Walmart’s denial.
The BCWS represents some of the world’s poorest workers, and it relies on a shoestring budget to do its utterly essential work. Responding to one of the worst industrial disasters in history has stretched its meager resources to the breaking point, but it’s still pressing on because it knows that holding big clothing corporations accountable in the wake of a tragedy like this is key to preventing the next disaster.
Click here to make a contribution to support the brave organizers who are going into the rubble of Rama Plaza to finish finding evidence to hold corporations accountable — before the evidence is destroyed for good. A donation of $3 pays for a full hour of an investigator’s time.
More info from Sum Of Us the organisation fighting for people over profits.