This April 24th, USAS Locals at dozens of campuses held sit-ins, die-ins, rallies, and other actions on the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse – the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry. Our message was simple: we should mourn the loss of those workers who died at Rana Plaza, but we should also not forget that these deaths were entirely preventable. In the wake of the 2010 That’s It Sportswear factory fire that killed 29 VF workers, unions and labor rights organizations asked VF Corporation to sign a legally binding agreement with unions to improve worker safety in its factories. The company refused. Had VF and other brands joined the Accord in 2010, the safety hazards that ultimately led to the Rana Plaza collapse could have been detected and fixed. Indeed, since the Accord began its work in Bangladesh, unions and the Accord staff have already flagged for repair over 8 factories that contained imminent structural risks that could have resulted in yet another Rana Plaza.
Everyday, 190,000 workers go to work in 91 VF supplier factories, many of which will remain unsafe because of VF’s refusal to sign the Accord. That’s why on the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, USAS and unions in Bangladesh took action to demand that the company sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord. This was an unprecedented wave of actions in the campaign – dozens of schools participated and these actions led to immediate results. Since the 24th, New York University, Arizona State University, Washington State University, and Oberlin College have all terminated their contracts with VF Corporation over the company’s refusal to sign the Accord.
This brings our total number of schools that have required their brands to sign the Accord up to 22 colleges and universities: American, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emerson, George Washington, Georgetown, Macalester College, Northwestern, NYU, Oberlin College, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple University, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Michigan, UPenn, University of Washington-Seattle, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Washington State University. Best of all, we’re very excited to be adding some big schools to this list in the next few days.
This spring has seen student and worker militancy demanding an end to VF deathtraps like never before. But we’re even more excited about what the summer holds in store. Stay tuned for updates as we launch the next phase of our campaign to demand that VF Corporation take real responsibility for worker safety.