Reminiscent of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the Bangladeshi factory lacked enough emergency exits, and some of the 112 people who died did so after jumping out of the eight-story building to escape the fire. Walmart had given the factory an "orange" safety rating in May 2011, which means that even by Walmart's low standards, there were significant risks. Walmart is touting that inspection program, and saying that it has cut ties with 50 factories in Bangladesh recently. But, Josh Eidelson writes:
[I]n a Monday interview, Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said Walmart’s “culpability is enormous. First of all they are the largest buyer from Bangladesh” and so “they make the market.” Nova said Bangladesh has become the world’s second-largest apparel supplier "because they’ve given Walmart and its competitors what they want, which is the cheapest possible labor costs.”Thousands of garment workers protested Monday, demanding justice. Justice, of course, is one of the things that Walmart's elaborate system of contractors and subcontractors is meant to evade. Walmart gets to say that it isn't responsible for the outcome of its push for cheaper labor, because that's all the fault of the contractor. Meanwhile, consumers have no way of knowing which Faded Glory clothes were made in sweatshops that endanger the lives of workers and which were made in sweatshops that merely keep their workers impoverished.
“So Walmart is supporting, is incentivizing, an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions,” Nova told The Nation. “This factory is a product of that strategy that Walmart invites, supports, and perpetuates.
5:11 PM PT: Walmart is now claiming that it had severed ties with Tazreen, only to have a supplier with whom they had contracted subcontract to this factory in violation of Walmart policies, and that the supplier has been terminated.