(April 18, 2013) — Last fall, 112 people were killed in a Tazreen garment factory fire in Bangladesh where clothes were being manufactured for Wal-Mart, Disney, Sears and other U.S. retailers. Factory managers were charged with locking in the workers during the blaze and fire officials said the factory had no emergency exits and workers said yarn and clothes blocked part of a stairway. It was the deadliest of many preventable factory tragedies in this nation where the $20 billion-a-year garment business represents 80% of Bangladesh’s exports.
All are invited to attend “End Death Trap Factories: Safe Workplaces for All,” a forum planned for 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 23 in the Columbia Room of the Legislative Building in Olympia. Representatives of Bangladesh garment workers will explain their working conditions and how a SweatFree Purchasing Policy supports worker health and safety and labor rights in Bangladesh. The event is hosted by Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma), the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, South Sound Clean Clothes Campaign, and the Washington State Labor Council.
Attending the forum will be Kalpona Akter, executive director of Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and Sumi Abedin, a garment worker and survivor of the Tazreen fire that took the lives of 112 of her colleagues. Both are in Washington April 23rd and 24th for a series of events that are part of a 10-city tour to raise awareness about the dangerous conditions of factories producing for the U.S. and global market.
Kalpona and Sumi will join allies in Washington State to call on Walmart and the GAP to support fire safety codes, and to compensate workers who have been injured and the families of those who died. They also want to commend the efforts of legislators and procurement officials throughout the U.S. in working to develop and implement SweatFree Procurement Policies in cities and states.