Today, Sumi Abedin and Kalpona Akter are landing in the United States from their native Bangladesh. Sumi is a survivor of last November’s deadly fire at the Walmart-contracted Tazreen garment factory. The fire killed 112 of her fellow workers. They were told to keep working despite the alarms blaring -- and when they were finally allowed to leave their machines to escape the blaze, the workers found emergency exits locked from the outside.
Traveling with Sumi is Kalpona, a former garment worker who became an organizer and a leader in the fight for safer factories in an industry where 600 workers have burned to death since 2006. It was her investigations that proved that Walmart was sourcing its Faded Glory-brand clothes from the Tazreen factory at the time of the tragic fire.
Thanks to contributions from 1,500 members of the SumOfUs.org community, Sumi and Kalpona have come halfway around the world to confront the big corporations -- like Walmart and Gap -- that treat Bangladeshi lives as just another cost of doing business. They want to force the executives at these companies to see the human consequences of their ruthless pursuit of low prices.
Together, let’s make sure that Walmart, Gap, and other big retailers hear their powerful message that lives of the people who sew our garments aren’t expendable.
Sign our petition to Walmart, Gap, and other brands that source from Bangladesh, telling them to meet with Kalpona and Sumi and commit to taking basic steps to ensure that garment workers aren’t dying in their factories.
The Tazreen factory was a death trap, with faulty electrical wiring, useless fire extinguishers, and doors locked from the outside. They died because the global corporations buying from the factory wanted their products as cheap as possible, and that meant going without basic safety measures.
Worse yet, the corporations who sourced garments from the factory knew the risk of a deadly fire. Inspectors had repeatedly highlighted the dangers at the factory. Walmart had even acknowledged that conditions at its suppliers, including the Tazreen factory, were dangerous -- but it decided that the necessary safety measures were “not financially feasible.”
The Tazreen fire shattered the lives of injured survivors and the families of the dead. Many families have lost their main breadwinner and are now living in dire poverty. But most of the brands that sourced from Tazreen haven’t even offered compensation to the families of the 112 workers killed.
It's time for Walmart and other corporate executives to sit down with the victims and explain themselves.
In the wake of deadly factory fires, Walmart and the Gap have both promised to work with their suppliers to make their factories safer. But they've refused to carry out some of the best measures for saving lives, like establishing truly independent monitoring programs and funding the renovations essential to turning their suppliers' factories from deadly sweatshop into safe workplaces.
Corporations like Walmart and Gap are betting against consumers like you and me. They’re counting on us to lose interest in Bangladesh, and they certainly expect that we’re going to stop asking tough questions about their broken promises. They know they can only afford to treat their workers in Bangladesh as disposable resources as long as consumers don’t hold them accountable. Let's surprise them.
Help us tell Walmart, Gap, and others to meet with Bangladeshi workers and commit to guaranteeing safe working conditions for the people who make the clothes they sell.