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Walmart Accepted Clothing from Banned Bangladesh Factories

Walmart Accepted Clothing from Banned Bangladesh Factories
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Written by Michael Grabell

Since the Rana Plaza building collapse killed more than 1,100 people in April, retailers have faced mounting pressure to improve safety at Bangladesh garment factories and to sever ties with manufacturers that don’t measure up.

The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, last month released a list of more than 200 factories it said it had barred from producing its merchandise because of serious or repeated safety problems, labor violations or unauthorized subcontracting.

But at least two of the factories on the list have continued to send massive shipments of sports bras and girls’ dresses to Walmart stores in recent months, according to interviews and U.S. customs records.

In June 2011, Walmart said, it banned the Bangladeshi garment factory Mars Apparels from producing goods for the retail giant. But over the last year, Mars has repeatedly shipped tons of sports bras to Walmart, according to U.S. customs records and Mars owners. The most recent shipment was in late May, almost two years after Walmart claims it stopped doing business with the Bangladeshi firm.

A second Bangladeshi clothing maker, Simco Dresses, was blacklisted in January but continued shipping to Walmart Canada into March.

Walmart spokesman Kevin Gardner said the Mars shipments were allowed because of confusion over whether Walmart’s standards applied. Mars didn’t produce garments with a Walmart house brand but instead with a Fruit of the Loom label. So, Gardner said, it wasn’t clear if Mars needed to meet Walmart’s standards or Fruit of the Loom’s.

Fruit of the Loom could not immediately be reached for comment.

As for Simco, orders that Walmart had already placed were accepted to lessen the impact on workers, Gardner said.

The shipments raise questions about Walmart’s ability to monitor its supply chain as well as its efforts to ensure decent working conditions in factories located in low-wage countries.

Interviews with Bangladeshi factory owners spotlight another potential problem: Walmart’s approach of publishing a blacklist with no further details might unfairly tar family businesses with minor violations.

International labor groups have been pressing retailers to sign anaccord to pay for fire and building safety upgrades to Bangladesh factories. So far, several large retailers including H&M, Inditex and PVH Corp., which includes Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein,have signed onto the agreement.

But many of the biggest retailers in the United States, including Walmart and Gap, have not. Instead, they are working on an alternative plan that they say will improve safety faster but that is not legally binding.

“We think the safety plan that we’ve put in place already meets or exceeds the [other] proposal and is going to get results more quickly,” Gardner said. “The point of the list is to get more accountability and transparency into our supply chain.”

Soon, he said, Walmart would also publish safety audits of its current suppliers in Bangladesh.

Dan Schlademan, a United Food and Commercial Workers leader who directs the union’sMaking Change at Walmart campaign, said the shipments from barred factories show that Walmart’s program is hollow.

“It’s either a question of Walmart just telling people what they want to hear,” he said, “or it’s that Walmart has created a supply chain system that they have no control over.”

Making Change at Walmart initially provided the customs data. ProPublica verified the information and found other shipments using public data compiled by research firms serving the import-export industry.

Mars Apparels is a manufacturer of lingerie and sportswear in the port city of Chittagong. In the last year, the garment maker sent at least 22 shipments, totaling 80 tons, of sports bras through the Port of Newark, according to customs records compiled byImport Genius, a data consultant for the import-export industry. In each case, the customer was listed as “Walmart Stores” and the product mark as “Ariela-Alpha International,” whose brands include L.e.i. and Fruit of the Loom. (Ariela-Alpha did not return phone calls.)

Reached on a cell phone in Bangladesh, Shaker Ahmed, deputy managing director of Mars Apparels and the son of its founder, confirmed the customs data and said that the latest shipment went out last month. (Customs data show several May shipments in which the customer was listed as “WMR.”)

But Ahmed said that until contacted by ProPublica, he had never had any problems with Walmart or heard about its list of banned factories. He described Mars as a medium-sized garment manufacturer with less than 1,000 workers.

Ahmed said Mars has supplied Walmart for more than a decade, though since 2008 it has been making clothes for private labels such as Fruit of the Loom that are owned or licensed by an importer, which then supplies the clothing to Walmart.

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93 comments

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6:16AM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

Shit holes...

5:20AM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

Noted..

12:36PM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

Dispicable. About 95% of my clothes are from charity shops and I think that I will keep it that way. At least I know that my money is going to a better cause

1:28PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

For those looking for US made goods there are several sites that list US companies that actually manufacture here in the US.

http://www.americansworking.com/
http://www.findusmade.com/
http://www.madeinusa.org/

are just a few sites that list USA made goods.

1:25PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

Of course they did and Americans bought them. Old Walt is rolling over in his grave at what HIS DREAM has become.

10:09PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Thanks for the info

10:58AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Thank you.

9:25AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Really!? Someone trusted Walmart at their word? Come on? It's like the government, if a statement is being made it will be the truth only by accident and less than 1% of the time. Our economic/political systems are set up based upon lies that ensure that lies have to be the norm. There are few sections of the government that I trust and no corporation or industry.

7:24PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

We need a solid textile industry in the U.S. asap that makes affordable clothes and gives fair treatment to workers. I would like to replace my wardrobe with all U.S.-made clothing, but I don't know where to shop for any affordable stuff like that. The last time I did an emergency shop for work clothes, I had to use a giftcard from Kohl's, and I couldn't find anything there that didn't come from some other country where I had to wonder if the workers were being treated fairly there.

2:17PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Walmart sucks, and not only for this!

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