Get the terrorists -- unless they are Walmart

May 13, 2013

When terrorist bombers killed three people in Boston, the FBI moved heaven and earth to apprehend them. When suppliers to Wal-mart and other big brands in Bangladesh killed more than 950 people (as of May 9) on April 24 in one of their garment factory death traps, the FBI sat on its hands.

But those responsible — Wal-mart’s board of directors — are well known and could be easily apprehended.

On the day of the Rana Plaza factory collapse near Dhaka in Bangladesh, one of the survivors of a fire at Tazreen Fashion, also near Dhaka, in November last year, was in San Francisco. Sumi Abedin and another former garment worker from Bangladesh, Kalpona Akter, had tickets to attend a gala fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel for the Latino Community Foundation, which is led by Aida Alvarez, a prominent member of Wal-mart’s board.

Not surprisingly, the foundation denied Abedin and Akter access to the fundraiser, along with other Wal-mart workers from the Bay Area and Southern California who’d planned to attend. Instead, they and their supporters rallied outside the Fairmont, demanding justice for Wal-mart workers all along the supply chain.

The deaths at Rana Plaza are only the latest example of murder in the Wal-mart supply chain. Last November, 112 workers died in the Tazreen garment factory, where clothes were being sewn at sweatshop wages for Wal-mart.

After that fire, the New York Times reported that Wal-mart’s director of ethical sourcing “played the lead role in blocking an effort … to improve their electrical and fire safety”.

Wal-mart argued that “it is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments”.

Where is the FBI investigation of Wal-mart’s criminal conspiracy that resulted in the deaths at Tazreen?

Why hasn’t the FBI knocked on the door of Marissa Mayer, another member of Wal-mart’s board, who lives at the luxurious Four Seasons on Market Street in San Francisco?

The day after the fundraiser at the Fairmont, Abedin and Akter attended a large rally outside the GAP World Headquarters in San Francisco. GAP, like Wal-mart, profits from the sweatshop wages paid in garment factory death traps in Bangladesh and around the world. Workers wrapped in mock shrouds lay on the ground in front of GAP’s doorway.

Since 2006, more than 1000 garment workers in Bangladesh have died while making clothes for companies like Wal-mart and GAP. The death toll keeps rising. When will law enforcement deal with these terrorists in our midst?

[Abridged from Labor Notes.]

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