New Orleans Sweatshops: Talking about a new garment industry inspection and morintoring plan that makes more sense, here is one from labor that is being readied for launch in Bangladesh. At this point it is an “if and when” agreement though signed by only two groups, PVH, owner of Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands, and Tchibo, a German retailer. All documents indicate that Walmart and Gap have been persistently adamant in refusing to pay the cost of factory upgrades that would prevent catastrophes like the recent fire tragedies from being repeated. To make this work at least two more companies have to sign on, and to really deal with this issue in Bangladesh, we need more than that. We also need this plan to move across the industry into other countries.
Here is the information from the Times editorial:
What’s needed is an independent and robust inspection system that is legally enforceable and run by safety professionals. A group of international and Bangladeshi labor organizations have been working on such an effort, but they have been able to get only two companies — the PVH Corporation, which owns the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands, and the German retailer Tchibo — to agree to it. The proposal would provide for an independent chief inspector who would oversee detailed and periodic inspections, based on internationally recognized fire-safety standards, of factories that make a majority of the clothes bought by the companies that sign the agreement.
The companies would bear the costs of improvements through higher prices for clothes and grants to workers who miss workdays because of renovations. The cost of the inspection program to each company would vary by the firm’s size, but it would be capped at $500,000 a year. Most important, the contract would be legally binding and could be enforced through arbitration and the courts in the companies’ home countries.
The labor groups and the two companies have agreed that their system will go into effect only when two more major clothing businesses sign on so that more factories could be covered. More brands should step up and embrace this effort. While this approach advanced by the labor groups is not perfect — for example, it applies only to Bangladesh and ends after two years — it provides a solid foundation for meaningful improvements.
Punishment without Relief
The big banks (Chase, Wells, Bank of America, Citi, etc) that brought us the mortgage scandals that are still crippling too much of the economy and leaving millions underwater or in danger of foreclosure, are being collectively sued for fraud at a level that may pass one trillion dollars, and currently, if they lose it the courts, would carry a $300 billion price tag. While the government, led by Treasury and followed in lapdog fashion by HUD, continues to do next to nothing to provide either leadership or relief from the banks, private lawyers and state attorneys general continue to jump into the mess. It would be nice to see justice here, but the families need relief and mercy even more!