News Comes As Walmart Announces Another False Solution to Protect Workers in Bangladeshi Factories
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 31, 2013
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Kalpona Akter, a former garment worker from Bangladesh, will join striking Walmart workers and warehouse workers at the company’s annual meeting Friday, June 7 in Bentonville, Arkansas, to call for a change of course by top management.
Akter, who is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, is returning to U.S. for the second time this year after supporters raised thousands of dollars online to bring her to Bentonville for the shareholdermeeting. In April Akter toured the U.S. with Sumi Abedin, a survivor of theTazreen Fashions factory fire that killed 112 people in November.
“Walmart and the other large retailers hold the key to ending senseless deaths in garment factories throughout the world,” Akter said. “Walmart must ensure good pay and safe working conditions for all workers in its supply chain from the factories to the warehouses to the stores.”
Akter began working in the Bangladesh garment industry at the age of 12, making just $3 a month. As a young woman working at a factory that made clothing for a big U.S. retailer, she helped lead a strike when the company refused to pay workers for all the hours they had worked. In November she provided photos to The New York Times demonstrating that Tazreen produced clothing for sale by Walmart despite the mega-retailer’s earlier denial that it had any connection to the factory.
At the end of her U.S. tour with Ms. Abedin, news broke of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. More than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives there.
“After Rana Plaza the conversation has changed and there is more attention than ever before on horrible labor conditions inside the factories that produce clothing for major global brands like Walmart,” Akter said. “Unfortunately as other retailers start to take responsibility, Walmart and the Gap continue to turn a blind eye.”
Akter’s Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity is one of the labor or non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh, Europe and the United States that developed the Accord on Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety. More than 40 major brands, including Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, H&M, Benetton, Abercrombie & Fitch, and PVH (parent to Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) have signed this agreement, Walmart has refused. The company also has refused to contribute to a compensation fund for factory fire victims.
Akter will meet hundreds of striking Walmart workers, members of the OrganizationUnited for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), at the culmination of their week-long “Ride for Respect,” a caravan that has taken workers through nearly 30 cities, in Bentonville for the annual Walmart shareholder meeting. Workers are on strike to protest Walmart’s retaliation against them for speaking out for the company to do better.
Thanks to poverty wages and poor working conditions throughout its stores and supply chain, Walmart hauls in more than $16 billion in annual profits, and CEO Mike Duke makes 1,000 times more than the average Walmart employee. Four Walton heirs are among the nine richest Americans listed by Forbes. Together, the Waltons have more wealth than 42% of the American public combined.
A growing number of workers and supporters are calling on the company to end retaliation against employees and to publicly commit to providing full-timework with a minimum salary of $25,000 a year so workers don’t have to rely on taxpayer-funded programs to support their families.
For photos and video of strikers and their community supporters, visit http://changewalmart.tumblr.com/ or follow the conversation on Twitter at #walmartstrikers
UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.