WASHINGTON—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the U.S. suspension of preferential trade privileges for Bangladesh.
"The American Federation of Teachers applauds the announcement that the United States is suspending preferential trade privileges for Bangladesh. Since 2007, we have joined with others in the U.S. labor movement in calling for the withdrawal of such preferences until Bangladesh makes real advances in workers' rights, health and safety issues, and the ability to form and join independent trade unions.
"More than 1,100 workers died in the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in April, and the death toll in such incidents over the last eight years exceeds 1,800. This action by the U.S. government is an important step toward ensuring that those lives have not been lost in vain.
"But other actions are needed to enforce international standards for factory safety and labor rights in Bangladesh. The major U.S. garment brands and retailers that work with Bangladeshi suppliers must take steps to make sure the goods they sell are produced under safe conditions. This is why I have called on the directors of Gap Inc. and other U.S. companies to sign the international accord on fire and building safety to protect garment workers in Bangladesh.
"Those workers must have a voice in shaping the reforms that will be required before trade privileges can be restored. And U.S. trade officials must continue to press the Bangladesh government for the political and economic follow-through necessary to implement needed changes. Workers in Bangladesh—so many of them young, poor women—deserve good jobs, a voice in the workplace, and safe working conditions."