Photo by Andrew Biraj for Reuters
In November 2012, five months before Rana Plaza became a rallying cry for garment workers’ rights in Bangladesh, Tazreen Fashions was the site of the worst industrial disaster the country had ever seen. Although it would soon be surpassed both in scope and attention by the collapse that followed, the fire that set Tazreen aflame left a brutal mark on history, killing 112 people and injuring hundreds more just outside Dhaka. Fire officials at the time blamed the high death toll on the lack of exits; doors to the outside were locked, with the only means of escape through windows on the third and fourth floors. Documents recovered in the aftermath revealed that three apparel companies were using the factory to supply goods to Walmart—and its Sam’s Club subsidiary—around the time of the accident, occupying five of the facility’s 14 production lines. The world’s No. 1 retailer, however, denied culpability, claiming that a supplier, which it subsequently fired, had subcontracted Tazreen with neither its knowledge or authorization.
Just before the second anniversary of the fire in 2014, an agreement signed by the Clean Clothes Campaign, IndustriAll Global Union, C&A, and the C&A Foundation led to the creation of the Tazreen Claims Administration Trust, which today oversees payments covering the loss of income and cost of medical treatment to survivors and families of the deceased.
Many of the brands with business ties to Tazreen, including C&A, Li & Fung (which sourced on behalf of Sean John), and KiK, have since contributed to the fund, but one notable exception remains: Walmart, its largest customer.
Although the retailer announced in 2014 that it would be doling out $3 million to the victims of garment-factory accidents, including $1 million to the Rana Plaza Victims Compensation Fund, Walmart has to date “refused” to pledge any money to the injured workers and families affected by the Tazreen fire, according to labor-rights groups.
It’s not as if Walmart would have to scrounge through its couch cushions. The company posted $476.3 billion in revenue in 2014. What’s a few million between friends?
“These workers have been waiting for three years to get the financial payments which they need for daily survival; to pay for rent, education and health care. They should not be forced to wait any longer,” said Samantha Maher, who represents the Clean Clothes Campaign in the Tazreen Claims Administration Trust. “There is no justification for refusing to pay; Tazreen workers deserve to be treated the same as those at Rana Plaza. We urge all those brands that were buying from Tazreen to contribute now, without further delay.”
With the third anniversary of the Tazreen fire approaching, Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum calls Walmart’s failure to act “unconscionable.”
“It is unconscionable that after three years the Tazreen victims and families still haven’t received meaningful compensation and Walmart hasn’t paid or pledged anything at all,” she said. That is why, on the third anniversary of the tragedy, we are encouraging consumers to take action online and at Walmart stores as part of the Black Friday week of action.”
Why not start now? Turn up the pressure at www.walmartdeathtraps.com.