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Rescue workers look for trapped garment workers in the Rana Plaza building which collapsed, in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka April 24, 2013. A block housing garment factories and shops collapsed in Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people and injuring more than a thousand, officials said.REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTXYYBO
The death toll has passed 300 in the industrial building collapse in Bangladesh; workers had been ordered to go to work or lose wages even though there were visible cracks in the walls and floors of the building. There's plenty of blame to go around in Bangladesh, including the owner of the unsafe building, the owners of factories located in the building who ordered work to continue, and authorities at every level. The American and European companies whose brands are being found in the wreckage of the building also deserve a look:
Activists combing through the rubble in Savar, outside the capital, Dhaka, have already discovered labels and documents linking the factories to major European and American brands, like the Children’s Place, Benetton, Cato Fashions and Mango.
Just as Walmart initially denied having contracted with the Tazreen factory in which a fire killed more than 100 workers in November, Benetton is denying any association with the collapsed Rana Plaza. That's the thing about networks of subcontractors: they give you plausible deniability. There's also a question of how companies that had subcontractors in Rana Plaza will respond: After the Tazreen fire, some companies paid compensation for the victims and their families. But not Walmart or Sears. Walmart also continues to refuse to join a plan to fund fire safety and other upgrades in the Bangladeshi factories that manufacture its goods.

Bangladeshi workers have been protesting dangerous conditions, but rather than making real safety improvements, their government has put down the protests. At least one labor organizer was murdered in the country last year. American companies are benefiting from these conditions, squeezing the factory owners who manufacture their goods for more work at less pay, then insisting that they are not responsible for the inevitable tragic outcomes. It's time for them to accept responsibility and make serious efforts for safety rather than making changes that are more for show than anything.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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