“I jumped to save my body, not my life.” Those were the words of Sumi Abedin, a Bangladeshi garment worker and survivor of the Tazreen factory fire that burned 112 workers to death. She knew that she was unlikely to survive a jump from the third floor of the factory, but she did it anyway so that her family would be able to recover her body instead of it being reduced to ashes in the fire.
Sumi has been sharing her story at US universities, as well as Gap and Walmart stores across the country. Last week, she said she was afraid to return to work in a garment factory because she worried that there would be another accident.
Tragically, her prediction came true. On Wednesday, another horrific catastrophe struck in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing at least 377 workers. Already it is the deadliest garment factory disaster in known history, and the death toll is still rising. Those deaths could have been easily prevented: cracks appeared in the structure the day before it collapsed, but workers who refused to enter the building were told they would lose a month’s pay if they didn’t report to work.
It will take time to sift through all the rubble and identify which companies were producing garments there, but already links to major western brands like Walmart are coming to light. Even now, while surviving garment workers are still trapped beneath the ruins of Rana Plaza as rescuers work frantically to save them, brands like Walmart and the Gap still refuse to take responsibility for preventing these deaths.
Use the form on the left to sign our petition to the three largest brands in Bangladesh — Walmart, the Gap, and H&M — demanding that they stop allowing garment workers to be murdered. We’ve known for over a century how to produce clothing safely, and the brands could make their supplier factories safe right now by signing on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, a commonsense proposal that would make the brands responsible for funding renovations to unsafe factories and give workers the right to refuse unsafe work.
Today, on International Workers’ Memorial Day, we ask you to join us in observing a day of mourning for garment workers who have been killed by corporate greed and negligence.