America exported its dangerous garment industry working conditions overseas; what we we need are ‘safe trade’ agreements…

So as you buy your clothes for yourself or for presents this Christmas season think about the poor workers and their unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the third world.

You just must have those bargains, who cares about the living and work and safety conditions of those workers who make your clothes?

Shades of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911, where some 146 people died when they could not safely escape the flames of a burning multi-story building — exit doors were locked — some of those who did not perish in the flames jumped to their deaths — such tragedy is happening today.

Yes, fast forward 101 years later and in an eerily similar scenario more than a 100 workers died in a multi-story clothing factory fire in Bangladesh over the weekend.

Escape routes in the Bangladesh factory were narrow and crowded and there were not enough of them, according to reports. To make matters worse, approaches to the building were difficult for fire and rescue equipment to maneuver. Some panicked workers jumped from upper story windows, according to at least one story.

I guess we made safety progress here in the United States — of course the Republicans and others hate cumbersome safety regulations — they stifle business.

And maybe they are right — when the going gets tough business people get going — to somewhere else that is. Most of the garment industry is overseas these days. Even our cowboy boots and jeans are made south of the border and elsewhere.

And I should not be so tough on people buying clothing from the third world — a look at my own clothes shows I am among those who do — but what choice do I have or does anyone have? That is where clothes are made (for the most part), no matter what the label.

I feel guilty about all of this nonetheless.

I know there are those what is it? fair trade? labels for some food products that are supposed to guarantee that the small producers or small farmers and workers in foreign, third world nations are given a fair shake in pricing and working conditions (I think that is what that is all about).

Well, a quick web search indicates there is no one agency that certifies fair trade practices and it is not a government function, but I think there are movements to promote fair trade for both food and other products. But I think it needs the force of law — unfortunately that is what such things usually take.

We need laws that require American importers to demand better safety regulations and wages for workers. We could call it ‘Safe Trade’.

This is not an isolated incident in Bangladesh. There have been 500 deaths in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2006. And work and safety conditions in the apparel industry are abysmal elsewhere beyond our borders.

This is something worth writing your senators and congress people about.

Maybe this does not bother your conscience. But it does mine. And write my lawmakers (well email) is about all I can do.

A link to a story on the fire at the Bangladesh factory: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/world/asia/bangladesh-fire-kills-more-than-100-and-injures-many.html?ref=todayspaper

P.s.

If you’ve shopped at Walmart, you will probably recognize the label “Faded Glory”. Documents and logos found in the debris of that fire indicated the factory produced that brand, along with others.

—————

CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION:

In my original post on this I stated several hundred had died in factory fires already this year in Bangladesh. I meant to refer to the reported 500 deaths since 2006.

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