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What Has Walmart Done Since the Horrible Bangladesh Factory Collapse?

What Has Walmart Done Since the Horrible Bangladesh Factory Collapse?

One year after the horrific Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed more than one thousand people and injured hundreds of others, have the companies who swore to tighten down on labor rights in their supply chain made good on their promises?

One of the most prominent firms targeted in campaigns after the collapse to improve the rights of garment workers abroad was Walmart, an industry juggernaut with tremendous influence. Garments linked to Walmart were found inside the factory, connecting it to possibly illegal and definitely dangerous working conditions there and contributing to global pressure for Western companies to demand safer working conditions at their overseas facilities.

In the wake of the collapse, Walmart stood out as a particularly stubborn entry in the lineup of Western firms being held up under the microscope. While many firms agreed to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety established after the incident, Walmart refused. The company also refused to join the short list of firms who cooperated to create a victims’ and survivors’ fund to provide compensation to those harmed by the horrific factory accident.

Then, it tried promoting its own self-regulating factory certification program, in a move that was criticized by activists concerned about the need for independent, nonbiased supervision of working conditions in Bangladesh and other countries where sweatshop working conditions are distressingly common.

Walmart conducted some safety inspections and attempted to clean up its PR with promises to improve working conditions. The company pledged to stop doing business with companies that provided unsafe working conditions or exploited workers, or to require suppliers and business partners to improve their facilities and worker agreements. It also pledged to be more aggressive about supply line control in the interest of weeding out garments and other products produced in substandard conditions.

Now that a year has passed and the Rana Plaza collapse has faded from the minds of all but survivors and their families along with stalwart labor organizers, how is Walmart doing? Not well, argues Yana Kunichoff at In These Times, in a retrospective piece covering Walmart’s moves since the collapse as well as its current state. She notes that while Walmart made minor concessions last year, working conditions on US soil haven’t improved, in Walmart stores or distribution centers. The company has been targeted in direct action campaigns across the US demanding the right to organize, advocating for better pay and protections, and speaking up on behalf of workers who were fired for raising concerns about unsafe working conditions.

At home and abroad, Walmart’s supply chain is riddled with holes that leave workers vulnerable to economic and physical exploitation. After Rana Plaza, some organizers hoped that it and other firms like it would stay in the spotlight and be forced to make major reforms, but that largely hasn’t been the case.

How do we permanently change working conditions for some of the most vulnerable people in the supply chain? It starts with pressure from consumers, who need to remind companies that they still remember Rana Plaza, and they want to see a transparent process for corporate responsibility and supply chain accountability.

It’s time for third party organizations to certify working conditions, for all workers to earn a fair wage and for no garment worker to die or be seriously injured on the job ever again.

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Photo credit: UK Department for International Development.

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12:20PM PDT on Aug 23, 2014

Did you really expect a company who is only interested in profits for the "ruling" class to care enough for the little guy to actually do something. Its own workers are on food assistance etc.

9:58PM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Walmart doesn't care about anybody (including animals) nor the environment. Those Walton billionaires won't even pay for their employees taxpayers get to instead. I really can't stand Walmart!

5:13PM PDT on May 18, 2014

Walmart like most companies don't give a crap about the people who make their stuff

8:42AM PDT on May 14, 2014

That is why i do not shop at Walmart.

1:28AM PDT on May 13, 2014

As for the (VERY annoying) ads; Install AdBlock's for free!:

1:24AM PDT on May 13, 2014

Walmart belongs in The Hall of Shame!!!

1:08PM PDT on May 12, 2014


12:29AM PDT on May 12, 2014

Wow, the ads just get bigger and bigger here.. kinda smacks of greed and I hope it gets toned down in the future. Thank you for the article though! :)

8:11PM PDT on May 10, 2014

not just bangladesh, india, pakistan, lanka, perhaps a chunk of Africa too.

Africa is another story, some are paid 4 hrs each way in travel time, punch in & return to claim an 8 hr day & 8 hr paycheck... & on the other side of the equator... another tale.

10:16AM PDT on May 10, 2014

I know . I know, (Franticly waving hand hand somewhere in the huddled messes.)

Nothing? Nada? Zip? Rien? Nichts? Kutch Nehi? Kichhoo Naa!

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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