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USW applauds decision to suspend Bangladesh preferential market access

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The United Steelworkers (USW) is applauding President Obama’s decision to suspend Bangladesh’s preferential access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in response to “serious shortcomings in worker rights and workplace safety standards in Bangladesh.”

“The Administration’s action sends a strong message to the Bangladeshi government and employers that there will be no business as usual until Bangladeshi workers can exercise their fundamental rights to organize and bargain collectively, workers receive living wages, and fire and building safety standards are established and enforced,” USW International President Leo Gerard in a statement released today. “Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza building collapse and the Tazreen Fashion fire that have killed and maimed thousands of Bangladeshi workers must never again occur.

“The GSP program isn’t a right, it’s a benefit provided by U.S. law,” Gerard added. “That right comes with responsibilitiesÑlegal responsibilities Ñand Bangladesh has failed to live up to its end of the bargain. Importing companies have opposed the retraction of GSP benefits but they have little concern about profiting at the expense of workers in Bangladesh. Those workers need our support to pressure their government and their industry to help make their lives better and safer. Profiting from the misery and death of workers in other parts of the globe must never be an American value. The Obama administration must follow this important action with continued leadership to address the violations of worker rights in Bangladesh.”

The USW said that the Obama administration should first demand that Bangladesh immediately enact labor legislation which removes all current restrictions on labor union registration and collective bargaining that deny workers in the apparel industry the right to form unions.

In addition, the USW said, “while technical assistance to the Bangladeshi government is important, assistance must also be directed to helping the 4.5 million workers in the apparel industry, and workers in other industries, exercise their right to organize,” the USW said. “ Without effective workplace representation, no amount of government or corporate monitoring will protect workers’ lives.”

Finally, the administration should publicly endorse the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh negotiated between the global trade union movement and more than 50 apparel brands, and should call on leading U.S. brands such as Gap and Wal-Mart, who have refused to sign the accord, to do so immediately.

The USW will join students, unions, and community groups in a global day of protest at Gap and Wal-Mart stores on Saturday, June 29, to demand that brands which have profited from sweatshop labor in Bangladesh take responsibility for their actions and sign the accord.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations. For more information go to www.usw.org

 

 

Posted 6/28/2013