Friday, May 17, 2013

Teamsters to Wal-Mart: Urgent need to act on Bangladesh worker safety

This must stop.
(UPDATES to CORRECT typo in 3rd graf.)

As Wal-Mart's sales slump, the Teamsters are warning the giant retailer that it should sign an accord to improve worker safety in the Bangladesh factories that produce its merchandise.

The Teamsters joined other major institutional investors in telling Wal-Mart and The Gap that they're courting legal risks and damage to their reputations. Both retailers are opposing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a broad agreement to improve safety in Bangladesh garment factories

Investors, including the Teamsters Affiliates Pension Plan, issued a public statement and sent individual letters of explanation to the CEOs of Wal-Mart and The Gap. 

A separate letter was sent to thank companies that support the Accord, including PVH, which makes Tommy Hilfiger and Izod clothing:
We welcome and have made reference to your initiative in the enclosed public statement that we are releasing in light of the continued tragedies in the Bangladesh garment sector and the mounting reputational, legal, regulatory, and operational risks they present to companies within our portfolios. 
Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall signed the letters and the statement. He explained:
The Teamsters and other institutional investors are demanding that Wal-Mart and The Gap take responsibility for the safety of all workers in their supply chain just as other top retailers and manufacturers have.
Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times reported on the pressure mounting against Wal-Mart and Gap:
A large coalition of religious groups and investors is pressing major American retailers to join a sweeping plan to improve safety in Bangladesh apparel factories, calling on them to act together to force changes in overseas workplaces. 
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which helped put together the letter, said the signers controlled $1.1 trillion in investment assets. 
Also Thursday, a second group of investment and pension funds controlling $1.35 trillion in assets, sent a letter to retailers, calling on them to ensure compliance with safety standards in Bangladesh and to disclose all of the factories they use — a demand that most major retailers have resisted... 
The second letter, signed by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and 13 other institutional investors, warned retailers of the “significant reputational, operational and legal risks that are ubiquitous in global supply chains.” 
“We expect companies in our portfolios to ensure the integrity of their supply chains,” the investors wrote. “We are dismayed by public statements from any company that states it is unaware that a factory produces its products.” After the recent factory disasters in Bangladesh, documents tying Wal-Mart and Sears to production at the facilities were found, but both retailers said suppliers were using those plants without their knowledge.
 That's no excuse.