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Bangladesh has a $20 billion garment industry, said a Washington Post article, “A year after Rana Plaza: What hasn’t changed since the Bangladesh factory collapse.” A study at La Trobe University in Australia found that more than 78 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings come from the garment industry. The World Bank’s website shows Bangladesh’s 2012 GDP as $115.6 billion, and a huge portion of that comes from the garment industry.
Rana Plaza, a large commercial complex in Savar near the capital of Bangladesh, is home to garment manufacturing factories. The complex had a large fire in 2013 where eight workers were trampled to death as 350 people tried to push through one locked exit, said the Washington Post article about Rana Plaza. Often when there are fires in garment factories, most exits are locked so there is a single exit, so that employees do not steal garments during the evacuation.
Garment manufacturing companies seem to value their product more than the health and safety of their employees.
A simple solution is to search for items made in the United States. Labor laws are enforced here for the most part, so there is little need to worry about child labor and mistreatment of workers.
American-made products can be more expensive, but are usually of higher quality and are made with fair labor. The most common argument for not buying socially responsible products is the higher cost. If you are really pressed for money, I suggest you buy secondhand. Used items save you money and prevent waste.
Ted Rudow III, MA