Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,14 May 2013

The Snap:

I’m thinking of a place: 3 syllables, starts with “B,” site of a man-made tragedy and deserving further investigation—maybe even Congressional scrutiny. No, it’s not Benghazi, where a terrorist attack claimed the lives of 4 Americans and up to 10 Libyans, and has become the rallying cry of politicians taking swipes at Hilary Clinton rather than figuring out how to improve U.S. diplomatic security. It’s Bangladesh, where a horrific accident claimed the lives of 1127 people working for $38 a month so we can buy cheap clothing. If you confused the two, you have company, like Dick Armey and the 39% of respondents surveyed on the Benghazi attack who didn’t know where Benghazi actually was (hint: get a damn map).

The Download:

Imagine you, your spouse or even your child working in a building you knew was extremely dangerous. Imagine seeing signs that your lives were in jeopardy. Then imagine being forced to work anyway and the building — that isn’t up to code because there is no code — collapses, injuring or killing you and everyone around you. That is what happened in Bangladesh just a few weeks ago, but you wouldn’t realize that American consumer demand played any part based on what the U.S. Congress has been up to, namely holding its 9th full hearing into an alleged Benghazi cover-up.

Hopefully, Congress isn’t ignoring Bangladesh because campaign donations from retailers like Wal-Mart contribute to appalling conditions in factories that lead to tragedies like what happened a few weeks ago. But holding hearings into issues where they may have to tell potential donors and constituents that we bear some responsibility for this horrendous accident is an act of courage and responsible governance that doesn’t seem the hallmark of the 113th Congress.

Bangladesh isn’t the only country where demand for cheap goods leads to inhumane conditions, so pulling out of the country isn’t the answer (I’m looking at you, Disney). It’s time for us to acknowledge that cheap apparel isn’t worth the life of another human being.

Thankfully, some businesses aren’t waiting for U.S. politicians to act (maybe because those companies are European). Businesses like H&M are signing a legally binding plan to terminate dealings with factories that do not comply with independent fire and safety investigations. Those same companies are also helping fund improvements to factory fire and building safety. American companies have yet to make a similar pledge.

Want to make them do it? Use the power of the purse (first make sure that purse isn’t made in a sweatshop) and buy fair trade. It doesn’t cost much more in terms of dollars and is worth it to know your purchases make  life better and not worse for the laborers we depend on. And businesses, prove your merchandise is ethically made and you’ll find a growing consumer base willing to spend a little more to know their purchases don’t result in a factory worker’s death half-way around the world or just down the street.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

GawkerDaily KosThe Maddow BlogMSNBCWall Street JournalProgress VideoNPRThe Daily ShowOpen SecretsSalonNew York TimesWashington PostFair Trade USATen Thousand VillagesFair Trade FederationYakima Herald, Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


  1. […] to help improve the safety of overseas workers so that another tragedy like what happened in Bangladesh can be avoided? Toothless and insufficiently funded to make necessary building safety […]

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