The Bangladesh Safety Accord has been renewed.
September 18, 2021 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Originally postponed for renewal by the pandemic, garment brands and global unions have come to an agreement on workplace safety. The original accord grew out of a response to several factory fires in Bangladesh in 2010 where workers were killed due to unsafe working conditions. The deal has only been renewed for two years, and many major US brands, such as Walmart, the Gap, JC Penney, have refused to sign it. It has received scant attention in US mainstream media. H&M and Zara are among the major brands that have signed on to renew; however, campaigners are calling upon everyone to do more, to also protect workers wages.

Meanwhile, within the US, you cannot rely on the "Made in the USA" label for sweatshop-free consumption. During the pandemic, US garment workers continued to work in unsafe conditions, to meet the demand for fabric masks. A bill in California is aiming to change that. SB 62 would push to eliminate piecework, in which garment workers are paid per piece of work completed, instead of being paid by the hour, and significantly, also create brand liability - that is, it would hold brands accountable for wage theft within their supply chains. Esprit's co-founder argues that this is also a sustainability issue.

posted by toastyk (12 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Anything that pokes holes in the corporate veil is a step in the right direction.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:47 AM on September 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

Wow, it's so great whenever California makes a move toward improving things. It shows that change can happen, and affects so many millions of people. (I know the bill hasn't passed yet, but just introducing it is a good thing.)
posted by kristi at 11:47 AM on September 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

it sounds like some of this might be in response to how buyers (ie H&M, Zara, et al) have been screwing over suppliers and everyone else further up the supply chain as a result of COVID-19
According to union representatives, in response to the pandemic, several brands asked to shave half the price off goods already produced, and workers’ salaries were already cut by a third. Pregnant women were often singled out for layoffs, the consequence of which was that companies did not have to pay maternity benefits to the women.
from The IHRB's report, The Weakest Link in the Supply Chain - How the Pandemic is Affecting Bangladesh’s Garment Workers

and as a follow-up to the lack of accountability and follow-through with implementing fixes for all matters of safety
What is less well understood is that, despite this extraordinary progress, deadly safety risks remain in a substantial number of factories producing for Accord signatory brands. Based on a review of the Accord’s publicly available, factory-by-factory, data on safety progress, this report enumerates uncorrected safety hazards at factories producing for 12 leading brands covered by the Accord.
from the WRC's report, Unfinished Business: Outstanding safety hazards at garment factories show that the Accord must be extended and expanded

which cites Aldi, H&M, Lild, and brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, et al as implementing the majority of fixes but failing to follow through on basic safety features like safety exits, fire alarms, fire suppression systems, and eliminating all actively hazardous dangers inside of factories

it also sounds like there's an uptick in the total number of child laborers for the first time in two decades, from 152 to 160 million children working in these kinds of conditions

which reminds me of that problematic AOC at the Met meme where a summary of Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism is superimposed on her 'Tax the Rich' dress - that while acts like these themselves are important, the bar is also so incredibly fucking low that to take news like these as indications that there are good vs bad brands or politicians, and that good brands/politicians/etc are now okay to support is to make the mistake of being convinced by the marketers that it is now okay, that these standards are fine, and any additional effort at followthrough accountability and pressure is totally unnecessary
posted by paimapi at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

FYI, for California, the only thing SB 62 needs to pass right now is Gavin Newsom's signature, so I would encourage any Californians to send a message to him to sign this. There are a ton of bills waiting to be signed, all of them important, but I would love for this to actually happen. I don't think he signs this one unless there's a ton of public pressure, given the commerce opposition.

I agree, paimapi, the bar is really really low for any improvements, and yet, they're all necessary. I wanted to cry when I started seeing mainstream coverage of SB 62 and in places like Vogue, no less...I have hardly ever seen, in my lifetime, action being taken on behalf of garment workers. It may be too late for my mom and her friends to get what they're owed, but maybe we can force a shift for current workers.
posted by toastyk at 4:42 PM on September 18, 2021 [11 favorites]

Thanks for spelling out exactly what to do, toastyk! I've contacted Gavin Newsom.
posted by aniola at 5:58 PM on September 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm glad to see this as Californian and generally. However, I was also reminded of this article (from this last July 2021, framed from a privacy perspective):

The Missing 'California Effect' in Data Privacy Law

The “California Effect” is a recurring trope in discussions about regulatory interdependence. This effect predicts that businesses active in multiple jurisdictions sometimes adopt the strictest standards that they face in any jurisdiction globally, even if the law does not require global compliance. There is a substantial literature that assumes the existence of California Effects both at the interstate level in the United States and the international level. However, empirical evidence documenting their existence and strength is scarce.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:48 AM on September 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Great article related to this in today's Boston Globe, talking about broader issues of sustainability, and why federal regulation is needed.
posted by rednikki at 1:25 PM on September 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

The list of International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry signatories .
posted by hat_eater at 3:33 PM on September 19, 2021

Imagine a government with so little leverage it can only appeal for voluntary compliance with a law negotiated largely by the complying parties, and who only do so for the optics.
posted by simra at 6:47 AM on September 20, 2021

Also related: fast fashion fueling environmental disaster in Ghana.
posted by toastyk at 3:48 PM on September 20, 2021

Thank you for the civic action tip, toastyk! Email sent.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:11 PM on September 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

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