The tragedy at the Rana Plaza clothing factory was a sober reminder that Bangladeshi garment workers still lack basic rights and protections. My mother was a seamstress. She worked in the textile factories of northern New Jersey. I saw how hard and tiring her work was. But it was never lethal. And it shouldn’t be.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building on April 24 was the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry, killing at least 1,127 people and injuring many more. It should be a turning point for the international community. Just as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City galvanized action to improve U.S. factory safety standards, the Rana Plaza tragedy is a call to action for consumers here in America and around the world.
In many ways, Bangladesh is a success story and an important partner for the United States. It is a moderate, Muslim-majority democracy and a key trade partner, supporting 10,000 American jobs. As the world’s seventh-most-populous country, Bangladesh has made dramatic strides on everything from global food security to gender equality to maternal and child health. It is also at the heart of global efforts to tackle climate change.