SECAUCUS, N.J. — A small band of protesters from a range of labor groups staged a rally in front of Children’s Place headquarters here two weeks ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh, demanding $8 million in compensation for victims and their families.
Carrying placards with slogans such as “Children’s Place: Pay Up For Workers Killed and Injured Sewing Your Clothes at Rana Plaza,” and “There’s a Crack in Global Social Responsibility Just Like at Rana Plaza,” the group heard from two workers injured in the April 24, 2013, building collapse and how they need compensation from companies such as Children’s Place to help pay for the basic necessities of life. They said they were injured in the collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers and left thousands more injured.
Liana Foxvog, director of organizing and communications for the International Labor Rights Forum, said, “The workers from Bangladesh that are with us today are traveling around the country demanding that all American companies join the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh, and that all companies that sourced clothing from Tazreen and Rana Plaza pay full and fair compensation.”
The accord is a consortium of 150 mostly European retailers led by the IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union. The Tazreen Fashions Ltd. fire occurred in November 2012 and killed more than 100 workers and began the outcry about factory conditions in Bangladesh and the level of responsibility for Western brands that contract at the facilities.
Aklima Khanam, who sewed at the New Wave factory at Rana Plaza, said she was forced to go into the factory the day it collapsed even though “when we got there we heard that the building was in trouble.” Thirty minutes later the electricity failed, and when generators were turned on, the building began to collapse. Khanam said she was trapped under machines and rubble for 12 hours.
“We want the brands that were sourcing at the factory to provide compensation,” Khanam said.
Foxvog and a contingent from the labor groups participating in the protest, including the Hudson County Labor Council-AFL-CIO, the New Jersey Work Environment Council, Workers United, the Bangladesh Garments & Industrial Workers Federation and United Students Against Sweatshops, tried to enter the building at Harmon Meadow Plaza to speak to a Children’s Place executive, but were denied entry by company security. She then handed over a letter explaining the labor groups’ demands and asked that it be passed on to an executive for the retailer.
The ILRF noted that Children’s Place had contributed $500,000 to an International Labor Organization-sponsored fund, but said it amounted to less than $200 per affected family.
Children’s Place noted that it had made that contribution, and said as a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the company will work to “continue to be actively involved in supporting broad worker safety reform in Bangladesh through significant financial and time commitments, working together with the Bangladeshi government, garment factory owners, labor organizations, global retailers and the international development community.”
The company said, “We are making a large and long-term commitment to improve safety conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers. To date, Alliance members have committed nearly $50 million to a worker-safety fund and have made an additional $100 million available in affordable access to capital to help factories implement safety upgrades.”
Children’s Place said it was committed to staying in Bangladesh and to “helping improve factory safety in a swift, measurable and sustainable manner over the long term.”