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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bangladesh: Is Worker Safety Failing in the Global Supply Chain?

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 workers in New York City more than 100 years ago probably is the worst single workplace tragedy in U.S. history. Workplace safety and health reforms followed the fire and eventually led to the signing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the creation of OSHA and MSHA. Unions gained strength and demanded safer working conditions for members. And now, modern building codes demand certain standards of construction, as well as sprinkler systems, warning systems, appropriate storage of flammable goods, an appropriate number of exits and the ability to access those exits.
Download the pdf of the Bangladesh features.
But as U.S. corporations shifted the bulk of their manufacturing overseas, how responsible should they have been for contractors that set up shop in countries where production is the only concern? Should U.S. and European companies bear some responsibility for the welfare of their contractors’ employees?
The authors of the articles in this special section say that yes, the multinational companies doing business in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan have a moral responsibility to improve the working conditions and safety of the people who manufacture their clothing and other products. After all, manufacturing in Bangladesh is big business: The ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh exported goods worth more than $20 billion in the past year; nearly 12 percent more than a year earlier.
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