We Need a Contract to End Deathtraps in Bangladesh

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On the eve of the six month anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, which claimed the lives of 1,134 Bangladeshi garment workers, we’re launching a new movement on college campuses across the country to demand an end to deathtrap factories.

Working conditions in the garment industry have reached a breaking point. In the last eight years alone, over 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in building collapses and factory fires while earning just $37 per month on the job. And the problem persists: just last Tuesday, another factory fire erupted, killing ten more workers.

At the root of these senseless tragedies is a cutthroat system of global subcontracting engineered by brands like VF Corporation (owner of JanSport), Adidas, and Nike to reap the greatest possible profits while taking the least responsibility for the fates of garment workers. It’s a system that students in 1997 formed USAS to fight – and now the stakes of our movement are higher than ever.

Workers in Bangladesh are putting Mother Jones’ famous saying – “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living” – into action. Just last month, over 250,000 workers took to the streets in Dhaka to demand a three-fold minimum wage increase. Thousands more have rallied for an end to deathtrap factories.

This summer, a USAS delegation traveled halfway across the globe to Bangladesh to meet with Rana Plaza survivors, union leaders, and rank-and-file workers to express our solidarity and make plans to coordinate our efforts to hold multinational corporations accountable for the conditions of their workers.

Now, back on our campuses, we are launching a new campaign that calls on our universities to require brands producing college-logo apparel to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally-binding contract – a Contract to End Deathtraps – between unions and brands, promising greater protection for workers and a voice for unions in addressing deadly working conditions. Students have also issued an ultimatum directly to the brands on our campuses (read the letter we recently sent to VF Corporation).

So far, over 100 brands from 15 countries have signed the Accord. Meanwhile, brands and retailers like VF Corporation, Gap, and Walmart have unveiled a fake safety scheme called the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety,” another voluntary scheme in a long line of ineffective corporate auditing programs that these brazen companies have touted for years. That’s why we will continue to demand that our schools end contracts with the brands on our campuses who refuse to sign the Accord.

Next week is the six month anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, and students and workers are declaring an International Week of Action to End Deathtraps. Sign our petition, on the left, to support our new campaign and join us as we organize in solidarity with Bangladeshi garment workers to demand an end to sweatshop deathtraps once and for all.