Just a few weeks ago, USAS activists across the country called for an International Day of Action to End Deathtraps to ratchet up pressure on the Gap and Walmart to sign the binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an unprecedented, legally-binding agreement that over 50 brands and retailers have already signed on to. This Saturday, June 29th, USAS activists, unions, and labor rights groups will be taking action against the Gap and Walmart in over 30 cities across the US, Canada, and the UK. Workers in Bangladesh are also planning an action of their own. This will be the single biggest mobilization to end deathtrap factories since the Rana Plaza collapse in April.
The organizations supporting the Day of Action have signed onto the following Statement of Support:
Statement of Support for International Day of Action to End Deathtraps
We, the undersigned organizations, call for an International Day of Action to End Deathtraps to demand that Gap and Walmart take responsibility for the mass deaths of garment workers producing their clothes. For too long, our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh have worked long hours at a poverty wage rate of $37 per month, producing clothing in the factories that function as literal deathtraps. In April, the bottom of this broken business model fell out: over 1,100 garment workers perished in the Rana Plaza building collapse while producing apparel for multinational brands and retailers, marking the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry. This latest tragedy brings the total number of garment workers who have died in preventable factory fires and building collapses in Bangladesh to 1,800 workers since 2005.
In response to these catastrophes, unions and labor rights advocates have demanded that apparel companies sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. This unprecedented, legally-binding agreement will empower workers to transform their factories from deathtraps to safe workplaces, impacting millions of workers who currently risk their lives to produce garments. The agreement requires independent inspections by trained fire safety experts, mandatory repairs and renovations financed by the brands, and a central role for workers and their unions. Over 50 brands and retailers, including H&M, PVH, and Abercrombie & Fitch, have signed this historic agreement, with the notable absence of Gap and Walmart from the list.
While the costs of unsafe workplaces are extremely high for workers, the costs of renovating factories are miniscule for Walmart and Gap. Under the accord, the costs of factory renovations for Walmart would be just two-tenths of 1% of the company’s profit last year, and just 1% of the dividends paid out last year to the Walton family heirs. For Gap, the costs represent, at most, just 0.8% of Gap’s profits last year, and just 1.5% of the net wealth of Gap Co-founder Doris Fisher.
But instead of ensuring the safety of its workers, Gap and Walmart have been using public relations tactics to undermine the accord. Gap has claimed that a binding agreement poses too much financial risk to the company within a “litigious” US legal system – a claim that US legal scholars have since debunked. And now, after weeks of pressure by people across the globe to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord, Gap put out a press release about its big new plan: partnering with Walmart on a voluntary, non-binding “safety plan” that is not accountable to anyone.
Too much is at stake for Gap and Walmart to continue their business-as-usual approach to fire and building safety. That’s why we have declared an International Day of Action to End Deathtraps on Saturday, June 29th. We will take action at Gap and Walmart stores – picketing, flyering, and demonstrating – to force the companies to take responsibility for the safety of the workers who manufacture their products by signing onto a binding safety agreement. Visit gapdeathtraps.com/action to sign up for an action and join us.
Amalgamated Transit Union
American Federation of Teachers
Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity
Bangladesh Garment & Industrial Workers Federation
Canadian Federation of Students
Clean Clothes Campaign
Change to Win
International Labor Rights Forum
Jobs With Justice
Labor Behind the Label (UK)
Maquila Solidarity Network (Canada)
People & Planet (UK)
National Garment Workers Federation (Bangladesh)
Service Employees International Union
United Auto Workers
United Food and Commercial Workers
United Students Against Sweatshops
Workers United (SEIU)