May 20, 2013
Washington, DC—Today, the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy group, the National Consumers League (NCL), is launching a social media campaign that enables consumers to send a message to retailers that they would be willing to pay 10 cents more per garment in order to improve worker safety in Bangladesh. In the wake of perhaps the deadliest-ever garment factory disaster, the NCL is launching the “10 cents” campaign in an effort to educate American consumers about the minimal investments needed from retailers to improve dangerous factory conditions for workers overseas.
“With the death toll following the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24 having climbed to more than 1,100 it is clear factory safety must be reexamined, and worker’s rights in Bangladesh must be given the highest priority,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “We think consumers would be shocked to discover that paying a mere 10 cents more per garment could mean the difference between life and death for Bangladeshi workers."
According to a Worker Rights Consortium calculation, rebuilding unsafe factories and installing appropriate safety equipment in Bangladesh would cost $3 billion, or a $600 million investment every year for five years. With approximately 7 billion individual garments exported annually from Bangladesh, a mere 10 cents tacked on to the price of each garment would generate $700 million per year – more than enough money to cover the costs for all necessary factory improvements.
Since the April 24 disaster, many European retailers signed onto an accord backed by European-based labor unions IndustriAll, Uni Global Union, and many non-profit groups that would mandate independent factory inspections and hold retailers financially responsible for fire safety and building repairs needed to correct violations. American companies, however, have been slow to act. Before the May 15 deadline, only two US-Based companies (PVH and Abercrombie and Fitch) signed the accord.
“American companies like Walmart, JC Penney, and Gap, who depend on factories that employ low-paid workers in dangerous environments think consumers would not be willing to pay 10 cents more for clothing,” said Greenberg. “It’s time consumers prove them wrong, and let their collective voice be heard. By taking this pledge on Facebook, consumers can exercise their enormous power to influence retailers."
The National Consumers League’s interest in the current situation in Bangladesh has historic ties. NCL has drawn parallels between the Bangladeshi factory fires that keep killing workers and the historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911, a conflagration that killed 146 workers and galvanized the labor community and government to make workplaces safer. For the first time, factories put in place fire codes, sprinklers, and new restrictions related to smoking and open flames inside the factory as the result of the tragedy. Advocates hope the recent factory disasters in Bangladesh will have a similar effect on improving factory conditions for workers abroad.
To find out more about the 10 cents pledge, visit www.facebook.com/nationalconsumersleague
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.