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Workers Continue To Die In Factories Producing Tommy Hilfiger, Gap And Kohl’s Clothing | Neon Tommy (participation)

April 5, 2012

Workers Continue To Die In Factories Producing Tommy Hilfiger, Gap And Kohl’s Clothing

ABC’s Brian Ross confronts Tommy Hilfiger. (ABCNews.com)

Imagine being caught in a fire with nowhere to escape because the factory you work at has all of its gates padlocked shut. Imagine having no money to feed your three children because your husband was one of the victims.

Hard to imagine? It should be. Making clothes is not supposed to be dangerous, but that is life for these people in Bangladesh, where even the most basic of human rights are virtually sold by the government to big-name multinationals like Tommy Hilfiger for exploitation.

It has been 15 months after the tragic fire in Ashulia, Bangladesh killed 29 people who were making clothes for Tommy Hilfiger, Kohl’s and the Gap. Although international attention has long since died down, fatal incidents continue to occur. In factories producing Tommy Hilfiger apparel, a worker recently died when an elevator cable broke, and two more were crushed by a boiler when it caught fire at a separate factory, where the gates were again found padlocked shut. No legal action seems to be making these companies want to take positive action.

ABC News tried to contact Tommy Hilfiger, the Gap and Kohl’s on how they responded to the 2010 disaster, but received no answer. The network then approached Hilfiger backstage at the New York’s Fashion Week last month.

High Fashion, Deadly Factories: ABCNEWS.COM – Tommy Hilfiger agrees to safer factories after ABC News investigation.

What they got from the designer was, “I can tell you that we no longer make clothes in those factories. We pulled out of all of those factories.”

Hilfiger’s parent company, Phillips-Van Heusen, called ABC the next day to amend their statements. They have since undertaken effective measures to ensure worker safety.

Scott Nova, the director of the Worker Rights Consortium – an independent labour monitoring organization – told ABC News that the agreement signed by Phillips-Van Heusen, is ‘a binding, enforceable agreement under which the participating brands must open up their factories in Bangladesh to public scrutiny and must make these factories safe.’

Based on this agreement, Hilfiger’s brand will have to pay $1 million to devise effective fire safety regulations and fund an independent inspector in every factory where its clothes are manufactured.

The Gap, however, calls the situation ‘complex’, and is doing its own inspections, the same kind of corporate inspection that found nothing wrong with the factory in Ashulia before the fire.

Kohl’s has reportedly given a donation to a humanitarian relief fund. That fixes things.

What is most frustratingly incomprehensible is why these companies refuse to take this matter seriously. Perhaps they feel that the ignorance of the consumers allows them to do anything they want.

In that case, we need to remember these big-names and what they stand for from now on.

via Workers Continue To Die In Factories Producing Tommy Hilfiger, Gap And Kohl’s Clothing | Neon Tommy.

via Workers Continue To Die In Factories Producing Tommy Hilfiger, Gap And Kohl’s Clothing | Neon Tommy.

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8 Comments
  1. Olivia Newhouse permalink

    I think the author brings up a good point, the reason the companies don’t feel like they need to do anything is because the consumer is oblivious to any of this going on. I know that if the media gave these incidents more air time the consumer would start to look into it and may even stop buying clothes from these companies.

  2. Amanda Fu permalink

    When I read this, all I can think about is what happens to the factories when the designers pull out of those factories? I’m sure that even if the designers may say that they are no longer using those specific factories, they’ll still be using other factories. But if the factory fire causes the factory to no longer have the designer company to employ them then what will happen to those workers who were not injured by the fire? Will they all just lose their jobs?

    However, seeing all of those videos of the sweatshops makes me wonder if the factories would have thought of some way to reduce fire possibilities, especially because the factories are so cramped. It would make sense how catastrophic results could occur from a fire in the factory due to the small space and all the flammable material such as clothing everywhere!

  3. Kyla Chappell permalink

    I think towards the end of the article, the best point is made. “What is most frustratingly incomprehensible is why these companies refuse to take this matter seriously. Perhaps they feel that the ignorance of the consumers allows them to do anything they want.” I think this is unbelievably true, consumers usually aren’t worried about how or where their clothes are made, but maybe if they had more education on this, they would. I also think then the company owners would think twice about the conditions of the factories where their products are made.

  4. Anna Chrisman 11143058 permalink

    This topic always angers me. In our economy, the only way that it will work is if the consumer is informed and chooses the products they buy on more than just price. Even if the consumers know that Tommy Hilfiger, Kohl’s, and Gap allow their factory workers to work in ridiculous conditions, they still will buy things from these brands. This is a similar topic that has come up in a lot of my classes when talking about walmart or similar companies. I always say that if we discriminate against places that don’t treat their employees or workers right, that they would be forced to change. These companies don’t take changing their ways seriously because they are confident that the consumer will still shop there regardless of what they do. They are confident of this because the consumer either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. I really wish that more people valued this informations, because it is out there. It is hard to be a smart consumer, but it would really make a difference if the majority of consumers were more careful and discriminatory about where they buy their goods. If people did this, it would be a priority for companies to have good worker wages and conditions. It seems that cost is the only thing that consumers care about. We are all guilty of this, but if we could change our ways the world would be a much better place.

  5. DeShaun Mizner permalink

    I feel that it is our fault in the long run, for showing our ignorance in these situations. 29 people die and we are getting our clothes on sale 60% off just to keep our head in their doors. These companies have the economic side of people on a leash when it comes to tragedys such as the fire in Ashulia. I find this hard to say, but i feel that in todays economic society, even if people are shown the “true facts” about what is happening in other countries, they will turn their heads and won’t assume responsibility. Its the bystander effect; the more people who know about it, the bigger the news, the more likely people will give their blind eye and assume that someone else will take responsibility and make a difference. Its just the way most of our society is wired.

  6. Alexandra Wilson permalink

    I believe the issue of the dangerous factories is many people’s responsibility and fault. The workers are essentially slaves, with very little rights and forced in dangerous environments because that is their own option of survival for themselves and to provide for their family. The big corporations take advantage of the cheap labor and the lack of safety regulations in countries like Bangladesh, so they can make more money for their product. I also find it very alarming that the only time change is made is once something very serious happens, like this article of the workers dying in a fire inside the factory because they couldn’t escape with the padlocked doors. Then once the media gets ahold off this the companies are forced to make change in order to maintain positive PR. Although this article isn’t the first time I have heard a story of poor labor rights yet myself and I know most of the American culture still continue to purchase products from these companies. This is because anything “Made in America” seems to be more expensive, personally I want to take an effort now to be more conscious from the clothing companies I purchase from.

  7. Megan Grichel permalink

    I also think the ignorace of consumers plays a large role in the fact that factories like this still exist and for the most part conditions aren’t improving. If these big name companies can “get away” with these below standard factories, they are going to be in no big hurry to make changes. Only after several people die and the media brings attention to the issue, will these companies make changes.

  8. The unfortunate thing about our current society is that the media that surrounds us influences the majority of things we get passionate about. Just take a second to think about all the different ad compaignes companies have endorsed in the past and how much attention these global issues attracted. The shoe company called TOMS is a perfect example of this. While they are claiming to help others they are also exploiting the publics compassion towards the impoverished in order to benefit themselves. This just proves that in order for the public to pay attention to global issues they most be exposed to it through publicity or consumerism. Which explains why a lot of people are generally unaware of the issues going on with sweatshops.

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