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Front page of gapdeathtraps.com showing crowd outside a building on fire and noting that 1,396 people have been killed in preventable factory fires and building collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry since 2005.
The push to get American and European retailers to sign onto strong safety agreements for garment manufacturing in Bangladesh requires a critical mass. Real change won't come if only a couple of retailers sign on, or if the biggest ones refuse. That's one of the reasons the Gap is a key target for pressure even though it didn't have any clothing being manufactured in Rana Plaza at the time of the collapse that has killed more than 800, we now know. It's not like Bangladeshi factories manufacturing Gap clothes have a perfect safety record, but the company insists on doing safety alone rather than in cooperation with others. Now:
Two labor groups, the International Labor Rights Forum and United Students Against Sweatshops, on Wednesday plan to launch a website called Gap Deathtraps in an attempt to publicly shame the retailer into signing a petition known as the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. The two labor advocacy groups say that Gap should have signed the legally-binding agreement, thereby giving up its current policy of self-regulation, after a December 2010 fire at another factory that was a big supplier to the company killed 29 people and injured more than 100 others. [...]

"Gap prides itself on social corporate responsibility, but has refused for over two years to agree to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, the only meaningful path to better working conditions by negotiating with unions over working conditions," Karen Li, a sophomore at Cornell University and an organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops, wrote in an e-mail. "Many companies follow Gap's lead, and had Gap taken a leadership position two years ago, these subsequent tragedies could have been prevented."

A Gap spokeswoman counters that the company has invested in its own fire safety plan. That's likely better than nothing, but having each company that has clothes manufactured in Bangladesh implement its own program isn't good enough. If there's no standard program that most companies participate in, then some will inevitably pay lip service to safety but not make meaningful changes. A patchwork of different little safety programs won't be as strong as a unified program; more things will slip through the cracks.

As a leading American retailer manufacturing in Bangladesh, the Gap should be a leader in real safety reforms there.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed May 08, 2013 at 08:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Invisible People, and Daily Kos.

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