This Workers Memorial Day, we remember those who have suffered or died on the job, and continue to fight for safe jobs and higher labor standards around the world. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire marked the beginning of reformative policies for higher safety and labor standards in the workplace. The tragic event instilled change in how we view human rights, workplace fatalities, and safety standards in the United States. Even now, every day in America, 150 workers day each day due to job injuries and illnesses. This drives us to advocate for safe jobs and worker representation in an increasingly corporate-oriented world.
Just five years ago, the Bangladesh Garment Factory collapse killed 1,134 people— primarily young women. In response to the tragic and preventable event, many US and European retailers refused to continue business as usual with Bangladesh garment factories, unless they addressed safety concerns. Conditions in some Bangladesh factories have improved in the past five years as a result from pressure around the world to raise their safety standards– showing how when we raise our standards, it helps everyone.
Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace for all workers continues to be a challenge today as workers across the globe struggle to find a job in a safe and healthy environment. Harsh and unsafe working conditions anywhere in the world affect us all– whether we import goods from foreign factories or encourage cheap labor from them. By halting purchases from factories that don’t uphold safety standards for workers, we can fight back against harsh working conditions that remain a very real problem.
There’s still much work to be done. Though some conditions have improved in Bangladesh, some small factories continue to lack safety and labor standards and remind us that the problem has not been solved. Workplace fatalities are on the rise again and even five years after a devastating tragedy– Bangladeshi workers still cannot count on a safe workplace. Many who were affected by this tragedy continue to struggle with fear in the workplace, and are left with no alternative option for work. As consumers of the garment industry, we must act to prevent the future exploitation of underrepresented workers.
This is why we need labor rights, safety protections, and human rights across the globe. Worker safety should not depend on where a worker is, and safe working conditions should be common to all workplaces. We must act together to ensure factories around the world raise safety standards to prevent tragedies to workers on the job.
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