Bangladesh Backlash Continues

Three weeks after the deaths of more than 1,100 workers in a factory collapse, Walmart is facing even more criticism for refusing to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, an agreement to improve workplace safety and inspections at Bangladeshi apparel factories.

Yesterday, dozens of faith and investor groups—including (uh oh!) the Walton family’s church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—released sharply-worded letters urging Walmart and others to join the agreement and publicly disclose their suppliers.

Eight senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, also called on Walmart and other American retailers to reconsider their refusal to join one common, legally-binding agreement. Arguing that company-driven safety initiatives—like the one Walmart has proposed—don’t work, the senators wrote:  “Recent events, including four workplace catastrophes in Bangladesh since November 2012, show that voluntary initiatives and self-monitoring are not effective approaches to ensuring Bangladeshi worker safety.” Ten Democratic House of Representatives joined the senators this morning in urging the companies to prevent future workplace tragedies in Bangladesh by joining dozens of other retail peers in signing the Fire and Building Safety Agreement.

It all begs the question: If hundreds of worker deaths and pressure from faith and elected leaders aren’t enough reason for Walmart to commit to real change in the Bangladeshi apparel industry, then what is? And is all the controversy hurting the company’s image with U.S. consumers? Sound off in the comments.

What do you think?