Thursday, November 29, 2012

112 people

The fire broke out on Saturday, killing 112 people.

112 people dead!

It was a garment factory.  There are thousands in Bangladesh, and fires are common, due to faulty wiring.  They exist because they produce garments very cheaply, which get sold in the US and other "developed" nations.  This particular factory made clothing for Wal-Mart, although Wal-Mart would not say how recently.  Wal-Mart and other large retailers have contracts with suppliers who contract with these factories, the goal, cheap labor, low prices, high profits.
Let's be honest, we look for that too, when we decide where to shop.
What we need to realize, what the large retailers need to realize, is that our decisions effect real people and their families.
Our dollars speak.
Third World sweat shops that fail to follow appropriate safety and environmental rules and pay their employees too little to make a living are little better than the cotton plantations of the Old South.  As consumers we need to be aware of this.  When investors ship jobs overseas in the name of lower prices for consumers, they hurt not only the Americans whose jobs are lost, but the people who are forced by economic reality to take the jobs in unsafe sweatshops that pollute the environment.
What can we do?
We can speak out.
We can buy "fair trade" when possible.
We already have the beginning of fair trade with coffee.
We can demand that investors, suppliers, and retailers be accountable for the conditions that lead to their profits.
We have been down this road in this country.  In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City led to reforms and regulations.
I know "regulations" have a bad name, but when profits are placed before people, ethically minded people need to act.
Right now the families of 112 people are grieving.