Fruit of the Loom, parent company of Russell Athletic, yesterday joined Adidas, Knights Apparel, and Top of the World as the fourth college-logo apparel company to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord, an agreement between unions and brands that will transform the Bangladesh garment industry from deathtraps to safe workplaces. USAS commends Fruit of the Loom for helping lead the way among major U.S. apparel producers to protect the safety of Bangladeshi garment workers who sew university apparel.
In the last month, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Temple University have formally required their apparel brands to sign the Accord as a condition of producing university apparel, in response to USAS’s “End Deathtraps” campaign. Brands like VF Corporation and MJ Soffe are still refusing to sign the Accord and take responsibility for the safety of garment workers who earn $68/month to generate billions of dollars of profit for these companies.
Fruit of the Loom’s decision to sign the Accord also coincides with news of continued strides in Honduras, where Fruit of the Loom is the country’s largest private employer. Four years ago, the CGT union federation and Fruit of the Loom negotiated a precedent-setting agreement in which the company agreed to recognize its workers’ union at the new Jerzees Nuevo Día factory and to adopt union neutrality at all of its Honduran plants. Building on this agreement, workers at Jerzees Buena Vista signed a union contract in October that will raise workers’ wages far above competitors like Gildan and Hanes who also operate in Honduran free trade zones. Meanwhile, workers at Fruit of the Loom’s VFI plant are in negotiations for a third union contract.
These victories represent a significant advance for workers rights in a fiercely anti-union garment industry where many large apparel companies insist it’s simply not possible or too complicated to respect workers rights. But despite these victories, Bangladeshi garment workers continue to work in deathtrap factories contracted by companies that have refused to sign the Accord. Students are vowing to redouble their campaign efforts this coming semester until every other college-logo brand producing in Bangladesh follows the lead of Fruit of the Loom, Adidas, Top of the World and Knights Apparel by signing the Accord.