In April 2013, the most catastrophic event in the history of the garment industry occurred as the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh. More than 1,132 workers perished, and thousands more were critically injured without compensation. This tragedy, and many others, could have been prevented if brands were held accountable for the safety of workers in their factories.
A solution is the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a historic agreement holding brands legally liable for workers in their Bangladeshi factories. More than 80 brands and retailers have signed on, but many brands refuse to sign to avoid responsibility. We, United Students Against Sweatshops, are a democratic activist group at over 150 universities.
Our chapter has initiated an ‘End Deathtraps Campaign’ asking Penn State to make its licensees producing collegiate apparel in Bangladesh sign onto the Accord by making crucial additions to our code of conduct.
USAS delivered a letter to President Rodney Erickson outlining our requests to ensure that workers don’t have to die to produce Penn State apparel. Neither he nor any other Penn State administrators have taken any action yet. Rana Plaza was not unique. Factories across Bangladesh force workers to remain in unsafe environments without the opportunity to speak out.
It is Penn State’s responsibility to pressure its licensees to sign the Accord immediately. We, along with the growing number of organizations signing onto our Workers’ Rights Coalition, hope the Penn State administration will meet with us and make the imperative addition to its code of conduct.