DISCOVERY ADDS TO EVIDENCE THAT WALMART’S PRODUCTION AND LACK OF OVERSIGHT IN BANGLADESH IS WIDESPREAD
For Immediate Release: May 15, 2013
Contact: Elizabeth Brennan @ Warehouse Workers United: 213-999-2164
ONTARIO, Calif. – New documents recovered by a Bangladeshi organization from the wreckage of Rana Plaza, the factory complex that collapsed killing 1,100, prove that Walmart garments were made there as recently as last year. (Please call for a copy of the documents.)
Walmart has repeatedly denied that it ever sourced from Rana Plaza.
The documents, found by the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, demonstrate that orders were placed by Walmart’s direct supplier, Fame Jeans, last year, which contradicts Walmart’s statements made to the Wall Street Journal and other outlets. The documents also raise serious questions about Walmart’s internal monitoring since the building’s structural issues were so severe.
Warehouse Workers United works closely with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity as well as other worker organizations in Walmart’s supply chain. Last month warehouse workers, who labor in unsafe conditions for very low wages in Walmart’s contracted domestic warehouses, met with Bangladeshi garment workers, guestworkers and Walmart associates to release principles that would ensure basic labor standards in the megaretailer’s global supply chain.
The Bangladeshi documents were made available on the same day several major European retailers and fashion brands signed on to an enforceable fire and building safety agreement. More than 18 multinational brands including H&M, Inditex and PVH have now signed. Walmart instead announced its own rogue plan to self monitor Bangladeshi factories and reinforced its refusal to join with other retailers.
Walmart’s announcement raises many questions as it excludes key provisions of the fire safety protocol that the other brands have signed, notably Walmart’s plan is not legally binding nor is it enforceable.
“What is most troubling is that Walmart thinks it can go it alone,” said Guadalupe Palma, director of Warehouse Workers United. “The most meaningful change in Bangladesh is only possible if all major brands and retailers agree to the same standards. Walmart is the largest retailer in the world and it uses the same factories as other brands. Walmart is trying to preserve the status quo.”
Rep. George Miller, who has a long history of working against the use of sweatshops, urged brands and retailers, including Wal-Mart to sign the fire safety agreement to protect Bangladeshi workers.
“Walmart needs to stop stonewalling and sign the binding agreement that a dozen other companies have signed. Wal-Mart’s announcement is just an attempt to allow their company to continue a shameful race to the bottom that endangers the lives of factory workers in Bangladesh.”
Last fall, Walmart also denied any connection to the Tazreen factory fire that killed more than 112 people, but documents later proved that six separate Walmart suppliers where sourcing from the factory at the time of the fire.
“Supply chain workers rights in the U.S. and abroad must be respected and no more workers should have to die, making garments in Bangladesh. We call on Walmart to sign the accord and compensate the victims of Tazreen and Rana Plaza,” Palma said.
Domestic warehouses are a critical link in Walmart’s domestic supply chain. Warehouse workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire unpack shipping containers that arrive in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from Asia and are then trucked to warehouses in the Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Warehouse workers who labor for Walmart contractors and temporary staffing agencies, manually load and unload 50-75 pound boxes destined for Walmart’s shelves.