Concerned by the growing death toll in a series of incidents in the Bangladesh garment industry, dozens of workers’ rights advocates and community members gathered Saturday to call on GAP Inc. to join other major retailers in a binding commitment to addressing workplace safety issues. The vigil and demonstration at GAP’s Harvard Square store in Cambridge came as labor and human rights leaders across the globe call for progress on a binding Bangladesh Fire & Building Safety Agreement. Major companies like PVH/Tommy Hilfiger and the large German company, Tchibo, have already signed the accord, despite GAP’s opposition.
“Too many people have died and more will unless GAP changes course,” said Paul Drake of Mass Interfaith Worker Justice, a leader in the local fight for workplace safety. “This latest disaster is proof that the time for excuses is over. We need action on a binding fire and building safety agreement now.”
A growing movement of garment workers and advocates are demanding that GAP and other major apparel retailers end their decades-long ‘self-regulatory’ approach to building and fire safety – policies that have led to more than 1,000 deaths in recent years. Just last week, at least 431 workers were crushed to death in the devastating collapse of another garment factory in Bangladesh, with hundreds more workers still unaccounted for.
Nearly a dozen organizations participated in Saturday’s vigil and demonstration, including Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, the International Labor Rights Forum, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MASSCOSH) and Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice.