Since a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,127 people, just three American companies have signed a union-proposed factory safety upgrade plan, the latest of which was Sean John on Thursday.
Other large American retailers Walmart and Gap have refused to sign the safety agreement. Instead, the two are now leading a coalition to push a plan of their own. As Kim Bhasin reports at the Huffington Post, “Over the next 30 days, the two U.S. companies will work together with a coalition of other firms and industry trade groups to come up with ‘a single, unified action plan,’ along with a schedule to implement it across Bangladesh’s garment industry.”
Gap has been the most outspoken in its opposition to the union-backed plan that has been signed by forty other retailers, including H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Inditex, which owns Zara, citing concerns over the fact that it is legally binding. The plan that it is developing with Walmart, on the other hand, is very unlikely to be binding.
This garnered strong criticism from some large labor unions. In a joint statement, the AFL-CIO and ChangetoWin said they are “deeply concerned about Walmart and Gap’s plan to move forward with a corporate-controlled, nonbinding process for adopting building safety standards in Bangladesh.”
Although some have feared the costs of such upgrades, they could be entirely passed on to the consumer for an increase of just 10 cents per garment.