In the past few years, conditions in the Bangladesh garment industry have rapidly worsened. This April, Rana Plaza garment factory in Savar collapsed, resulting in the wrongful deaths of more than 1,100 workers. This incident, which has proven to be the largest industrial disaster in the history of garment production, was tragically avoidable; the previous day, workers reported cracks in the building foundation but were threatened with termination if they did not enter the factory. Had workers been granted access to collective bargaining rights or simply a safe working environment, their lives may have been spared.
This disaster is not isolated- in fact it comes as part of a string of incidents caused by deathtrap conditions. A legally binding document called the Bangladesh Fire and Factory Safety Accord has been drafted to address these problems, but without public outrage, American corporations have been reluctant to join their international counterparts in this commitment. Now is the time to mobilize in support of a real solution.
We as students are calling on Virginia Tech to help right this wrong. It is possible for our university to influence the global garment market by ethically sourcing Hokie apparel. We are calling on our university to require licensees producing in Bangladesh to sign onto the international Fire and Building Safety Accord in Bangladesh. We believe that Hokie pride should not come at the expense of others. Campuses across the United States are running concurrent code of conduct campaigns and together we can work towards a future without conditions.
Making this change will require many voices within the university to speak up. We are asking students, faculties, organizations, and other university affiliates to pledge their support and show administration that fair labor is a relevant issue to the student body.
Campaign update, 10.25.13: Victory! Adidas has become the first collegiate corporation to sign the Accord!
Campaign update, 10.26.13: The Worker’s Rights Consortium has stated that all university affiliates (including VT) should incorporate the Accord into their codes of conduct.
Campaign update, 10.27.13: Knight’s Apparel has now signed onto the Accord!
Campaign update, 4.3.14: VICTORY! VT will be cutting contracts with any brands producing irresponsibly in Bangladesh. However, administration has not committed to incorporation of this policy into a permanent code of conduct and thus we will continue campaigning to secure this institutionalization of justice.