Since this blog has decided to interview Yglesias, I wonder what’s going on in Bangladesh these days. If you remember back to 2013, Yglesias decided to respond to my call for global safety standards after 1,138 people died making your clothing by saying that different nations have different safety standards and that’s OK! This is what led to me writing Out of Sight.
Well, not that he cares about any of this since he’s still on his “neoliberal forms of globalization is good for the people suffering in factories” kick, but things are not really much better today than they were 8 years ago.
Only a fraction of the 1,500 garment factories covered by a Bangladesh government initiative has made meaningful strides in fire, electrical and structural improvements over the past four years, a new report has revealed.
Of the 793 factories still active as of June, only 120 have conducted more than 90 percent of the necessary repairs, according to the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC), a unit that functions under the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment. More than two-thirds of the facilities, 535 in all, have delivered more than 50 percent progress. Another 95 have achieved between 50 percent to 70 percent progress, and 94 between 70 percent and 80 percent of the same. Overall, the RCC’s rate of corrective measures stands at 48 percent, it said.
Established in 2017 as part of Bangladesh’s National Initiative, a safety compliance regime supported by the International Labour Organization and funded by the governments of Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the RCC was designed to manage and inspect facilities outside the purview of the Accord for Fire and Building and Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, two retailer-led remediation agreements that grew out of the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex. In the ensuing years, 14 of RCC-covered factories have moved over to the Accord, which covers roughly 1,600 factories, or the Alliance (now Nirapon), which works with 600, though there is some overlap between the two. Another 630 have shut down and 100 have relocated outside Bangladesh, the RCC said. Organizations such as the Centre for Policy Dialogue have criticized the RCC for its lack of staff and lax standards. In a report published in June, the Bangladesh-based think tank called out the “non-functional” RCC website for providing inadequate factory-level data that “portrays a lack of transparency in the inspection process.” Since RCC-covered factories work as third-party contractors for non-branded buyers or suppliers with weak or non-existent codes of conduct, “brands and buyers have no direct pressure on them to undertake remediation measures; hence factories do not have incentives to remediate their factories,” it added.
Once again, the only answer to these issues of global labor exploitation is a system that holds suppliers accountable for their supply chains wherever they choose to site production. That’s the issue we should be talking about when discussing globalization, not whether from 30,000 feet and in our comfortable Beltway parties and offices workers are “better off,” whatever that means, than they were before the factories opened. The point is to engage in solidarity acts that give people power to make changes they want in their own lives, not just handwave away death by citing statistics about economic change. It’s not that the statistics are lying. It’s that they are no excuse for people dying.
A lot of liberals need to take this a lot more seriously today than they do. Including some people interviewed on this blog’s podcast.