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SEVEN YEARS AFTER RANA PLAZA, SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES REMAIN
[Senate Prints 116-17]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]





116th Congress   }                                           {    S. Prt.
                              COMMITTEE PRINT                     
2d Session       }                                           {    116-17
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     

 
      SEVEN YEARS AFTER RANA PLAZA, SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES REMAIN

                               __________

                        A MINORITY STAFF REPORT

                      PREPARED FOR THE USE OF THE

                     COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                     One Hundred Sixteenth Congress

                             SECOND SESSION

                             March 5, 2020
                             

                                     
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations






                     Available via World Wide Web:
                       http://www.govinfo.gov
                       
                       
                       
                       
                             ______

               U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE 
 39-906 PDF             WASHINGTON : 2020




                 COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS        

                JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho, Chairman        
MARCO RUBIO, Florida                 ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin               BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland
CORY GARDNER, Colorado               JEANNE SHAHEEN, New Hampshire
MITT ROMNEY, Utah                    CHRISTOPHER A. COONS, Delaware
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina       TOM UDALL, New Mexico
JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming               CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, Connecticut
ROB PORTMAN, Ohio                    TIM KAINE, Virginia
RAND PAUL, Kentucky                  EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
TODD YOUNG, Indiana                  JEFF MERKLEY, Oregon
TED CRUZ, Texas                      CORY A. BOOKER, New Jersey
DAVID PERDUE, Georgia
                  Christopher M. Socha, Staff Director        
               Jessica Lewis, Democratic Staff Director        
                    John Dutton, Chief Clerk        

                                (ii)        
                              
                              
                              
                              
                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              
                                                                   Page

Letter of Transmittal............................................     v

Executive Summary................................................     1

Introduction: Factories Are Now Safer, But Workers Are Not.......     7

Chapter One: Abuse of Workers in Ready-Made Garment Factories....     9
    Female Garment Workers Face Disproportionate Abuse...........    11
    Culture of Impunity..........................................    13

Chapter Two: Workers' Rights Under Attack........................    15
    Government Response to Worker Protests.......................    16
    Challenges to Union Registration.............................    18

Chapter Three: Factory Safety Has Improved.......................    23
    Government of Bangladesh's 2013 Labor Commitments............    24
    Subcontracting...............................................    28

Chapter Four: The Key Actors Shaping Factory Safety and Labor 
  Rights in Bangladesh...........................................    29
    The International Safety Initiatives: The Accord and the 
      Alliance...................................................    29
    The European-Led Accord's Accomplishments....................    30
    The American-Led Alliance's Accomplishments..................    30
    The Successor to the American-Led Alliance, Nirapon..........    31
    The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturing and Exporters 
      Association (BGMEA)........................................    32
    The RMG Sustainability Council...............................    32

Chapter Five: The United States and European Union Response to 
  the Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza Tragedies..................    35
    U.S. Response................................................    35
    U.S. Assistance for International Labor Rights...............    35
    EU Sustainability Compact....................................    36
    The Brands' Response to the Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza 
      Tragedies..................................................    37
    Brand Purchasing Practices...................................    38
    Consumers....................................................    39
    Conclusion...................................................    39

Full List of Recommendations.....................................    41



                                 (iii)


      
      
      
      




                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              

                              United States Senate,
                            Committee on Foreign Relations,
                                     Washington, DC, March 5, 2020.



    Dear Colleagues: On April 24, 2013, more than eleven 
hundred garment workers lost their lives in the collapse of the 
Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which housed factories 
supplying major Western brands. The tragedy of Rana Plaza was 
the worst in a string of disasters, including a fire at Tazreen 
Fashions factory which killed 112 people. Following these 
tragedies, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) 
Democratic Staff produced a report at my direction which 
concluded that Bangladesh's garment workers could not have 
truly safe, healthy, and decent working conditions unless they 
gained the ability to organize and defend their rights. Nearly 
seven years have passed, during which two brand-led 
international initiatives were mandated to inspect and 
remediate over 2,000 Ready-Made Garment factories in 
Bangladesh. The second of these initiatives will conclude in 
the coming months, and a locally-led private safety monitoring 
entity will fully assume these safety monitoring 
responsibilities. Bangladesh faces a critical inflection point 
as these initiatives come to a close and the government and 
local industry look to fill the void.
    Given this changing landscape, I directed my SFRC Staff to 
assess the progress made in worker safety and labor rights 
since 2013. Last year, my staff conducted a visit to Dhaka, 
Bangladesh, where they met with Bangladeshi garment workers and 
union activists, leaders of the international safety monitoring 
initiatives, government of Bangladesh officials, the 
International Labour Organization, civil society, and other 
stakeholders. They collected additional information through 
meetings in Brussels with European Union labor officials, and 
in Washington D.C. with U.S. government officials, 
international labor rights advocates, retailer brand 
associations, and the head of a Bangladesh-based private safety 
monitoring organization.



                                  (v)

    During the course of their research, they found that while 
many Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garment factories were structurally 
safer, the workers inside are not. Workers face increased 
intimidation, threat, and violence in retaliation for their 
labor activism. Worse, some workers are being subjected to 
physical abuse--especially women, who constitute the majority 
of Bangladesh's Ready-Made Garment workforce. As I said in 
2013, American consumers will simply not accept clothes stained 
with the blood of those who made them. I remain in awe of the 
courage and bravery shown by these Bangladeshi garment workers. 
This report shines a light on the ongoing plight of these 
workers in their fight to defend their rights and gain better 
treatment.
    Bangladesh's continued growth of its garment sector is 
critical to supporting the country's economic development, 
including supporting women's economic empowerment, both goals 
that the United States should enthusiastically support. 
However, unless clear steps are taken, Bangladesh's garment 
sector will struggle to grow amid a competitive fast-fashion 
market and growing global consumer concern about the conditions 
under which their clothes are made. Significant steps have been 
taken to improve safety in some of Bangladesh's factories and 
the government has made some progress through reforms to its 
labor law. This progress must be built upon and I hope that the 
Bangladeshi government will take seriously its responsibility 
to protect factory workers, not only from unsafe buildings, but 
abusive management and repression of labor rights.
    Labor unions across the world are increasingly under attack 
for exercising their rights to organize. The Trump 
administration has consistently sought deep decreases in 
funding for international labor rights programs, but to date, 
Congress has thankfully rejected these cuts. The United States 
must lead in advancing labor rights, at home and abroad, and 
call on foreign governments to respect the internationally-
recognized rights to associate, organize, and collectively 
bargain. This report provides practical and timely 
recommendations for the U.S. Government and other stakeholders 
to protect workers from abuse, ensure workers are empowered to 
defend their rights, and to safeguard and advance the gains in 
factory safety.
            Sincerely,
                                           Robert Menendez,
                                                    Ranking Member.


                           EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

                              ----------                              

    Nearly seven years ago, in April 2013, the Rana Plaza 
garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed more than 
one thousand workers.\1\ Today, many of Bangladesh's Ready-Made 
Garment (RMG) factory buildings are structurally safer, but the 
workers inside are not. Labor rights have declined 
precipitously in recent years as union organizers contend with 
pressure on freedoms to associate, organize, and demonstrate. 
Worse, workers are being abused--verbally, physically, and 
sexually--and their perpetrators are largely walking free. 
According to one Bangladeshi labor organizer, ``the environment 
for workers has never been worse.''\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ In April 2013, Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building 
in Dhaka, Bangladesh that housed ready-made garment factories supplying 
Western brands collapsed. The day before, a local engineer had 
inspected the building and deemed it unsafe, urging everyone to 
evacuate. The building owner, Mohammad Sohel Rana, dismissed police 
orders and instructed employees to return to work the next day. At 
least 1,138 people were killed, and more than 2,000 were injured. 
``Bangladesh Factory Collapse Toll Passes 1,000,'' BBC, May 10, 2013.
    \2\ Factory Worker, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In the wake of the devastating Rana Plaza collapse, and a 
2012 fire at a garment factory that killed at least 112, two 
international initiatives--the European-based Accord on Fire 
and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the American-based 
Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety--were created to improve 
factory building safety, and they have largely succeeded.\3\ 
However, as both initiatives conclude their operations, the 
government of Bangladesh must now assume full responsibility 
for ensuring factory safety and protection of labor rights.\4\ 
Today, many workers and worker advocates are concerned that 
standards for safety and rights could backslide, raising the 
specter of more accidents in the future.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ The two international factory safety-monitoring initiatives are 
discussed further in Chapter Four.
    \4\ The Alliance concluded its operations in December 2018. 
``Alliance Announces End of Its Tenure,'' New Age Business, Dec. 14, 
2018; The Accord is due to wrap up operations in 2020. ``Bangladesh 
Factory Safety Monitors Get Court Extension,'' France24, May 19, 2019, 
See Chapter Four.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Bangladesh sits at a crucial inflection point. The 
remaining international safety initiative, known as the Accord, 
is handing the reins on building safety and labor rights over 
to a locally-run private safety monitoring entity, the Ready-
Made Garment Sustainability Council. As the responsibility for 
monitoring safety conditions and respect for labor rights in 
RMG factories in Bangladesh evolves, stakeholders in Bangladesh 
and the international community must address the following 
questions:


 1. Will the government maintain the progress made in building 
        safety and take additional measures to protect labor 
        rights?

 2. Will the new Ready-Made Garment Sustainability Council 
        build upon the progress of the international 
        initiatives and continue to improve building safety, 
        promote respect for labor rights, and protect workers 
        from abuse?

 3. Will international brands insist on both building safety 
        and respect for labor rights, including protection 
        against worker abuse?


    Unless positive movement can be made on these key 
questions, the Bangladesh RMG sector will face an uncertain 
future in a competitive fast-fashion market.
    Shopna, a garment worker in Dhaka, summed up the sacrifices 
made by workers producing the clothes we wear: ``[It] makes me 
happy that [consumers] are wearing something that I made. But I 
want to let them know that this is more than a piece of cloth. 
This piece of cloth is bathed in my blood, sweat and dignity. 
I've sacrificed all of that to be able to make a pair of pants 
that you will wear and feel comfortable.''\5\ This report will 
illustrate some of the treatment workers endure and the 
sacrifices they make, and will detail what stakeholders must do 
to improve conditions for workers like Shopna.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ ActionAid, ``80 Percent of Garment Workers in Bangladesh Have 
Experienced or Witnessed Sexual Violence and Harassment at Work,'' June 
10, 2019, https://actionaid.org/news/2019/80-garment-workers-
bangladesh-have-experienced-or-witnessed-sexual-violence-and.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    After the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee Democratic Staff issued a 2013 report entitled Worker 
Safety and Labor Rights in Bangladesh's Garment Sector.\6\ The 
report found that an independent and robust organized labor 
movement in Bangladesh was imperative to the future of the RMG 
sector and would provide the ultimate bulwark against another 
tragic accident on the scale of Rana Plaza. Nearly seven years 
following that first report, unfortunately, the main 
recommendations with respect to labor rights remain 
unfulfilled. This second report by the Committee finds that a 
culture of safety has begun to take hold around RMG factories, 
but not a culture of respect for workers and their labor 
rights.\7\ Ultimately, workers are best placed to represent 
their own safety concerns and defend themselves against abuses. 
Independent, representative labor unions provide the greatest 
tool for them to do so.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Majority Staff, Worker 
Safety and Labor Rights in Bangladesh's Garment Sector, Nov. 22, 2013.
    \7\ This report was finalized in February 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------


                            report findings


                   Chapter One: Abuse of Workers in 
                      Ready-Made Garment Factories

    RMG workers, especially union leaders and organizers, are 
        increasingly subjected to abuse and harassment, with 
        almost no punishment for the perpetrators.
    Female workers--who make up the majority of RMG workers--
        are disproportionately affected by the abuse in 
        factories. Most female workers serve in junior roles 
        such as machine operators and rarely hold leadership 
        positions.
    Lack of access to justice, especially for women, 
        contributes to a pervasive culture of abuse in RMG 
        factories, where perpetrators often act with impunity.

               Chapter Two: Workers' Rights Under Attack

    Despite hopes that the Rana Plaza tragedy would motivate 
        genuine labor rights reform in Bangladesh, the 
        environment for union organizers and activists has 
        deteriorated. The violence and repression during the 
        December 2018 and January 2019 worker protests over the 
        minimum wage illustrates this downward trajectory. 
        While hundreds of unions were registered in the 
        immediate aftermath of Rana Plaza, union leaders now 
        face significant bureaucratic obstacles to registration 
        and intimidation from factory owners.

    Factory owners have not been held accountable for unfair 
        labor practices, as defined by the 2006 Bangladesh 
        Labor Act. Examples of unfair labor practices include 
        dismissal and firing from employment, or the threat of 
        it, if a worker joins a union, encourages others to do 
        so, or files a labor related complaint. As of January 
        2020, the Bangladesh Department of Labor has failed to 
        successfully fully prosecute or enforce reinstatement 
        of union leaders in most, if not all, unfair labor 
        practice cases--of which more than 15 have been pending 
        for years.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Oct. 7, 2019.

               Chapter Three: Factory Safety Has Improved

    The international initiatives created after Rana Plaza 
        significantly improved fire, structural, and electrical 
        safety conditions in the factories under their 
        respective purviews.

    Thousands of RMG factories across Bangladesh have been 
        inspected or remediated, largely due to the work of 
        international safety initiatives. However, there are 
        reportedly thousands of unregistered RMG factories 
        operating in Bangladesh that likely do not meet safety 
        standards. The government of Bangladesh is responsible 
        for inspecting and remediating hundreds of other 
        factories, but has fallen short in its responsibility 
        to ensure safety standards at these factories.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza: The Way 
Forward (``Five Years after Rana Plaza''), NYU Stern Center for 
Business and Human Rights (Apr. 2018).

            Chapter Four: Key Actors Shaping Factory Safety 
                     and Labor Rights in Bangladesh

    The government of Bangladesh has reformed its labor law and 
        sought to develop bureaucratic capacity to conduct 
        factory building inspections, but these efforts have 
        been insufficient and fall short of international 
        standards. As the international safety initiatives 
        phase out, there is concern that the government of 
        Bangladesh and local institutions will be unable to 
        sustain, let alone advance, the progress made by the 
        international initiatives.

    The new locally-run private safety monitoring entity, the 
        Ready-Made Garment Sustainability Council that will 
        take over the Accord's operations, will be governed by 
        a Board of Directors that includes industry 
        representatives, brands and trade unions. The 
        credibility of this institution will be determined by 
        several factors, particularly the balance of power on 
        the Board.

          Chapter Five: The U.S. and European Union Response 
            to the Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza Tragedies

    After the Rana Plaza tragedy, in June 2013, the United 
        States suspended Bangladesh's trade benefits under the 
        Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and negotiated 
        an action plan with the government, that if 
        implemented, would have provided a basis for 
        reinstatement of GSP trade benefits. Nearly seven years 
        later, it has not been fully implemented and workers 
        are facing increasing challenges, such as abuse inside 
        factories and violations of labor rights.

    The Trump administration has consistently sought to cut 
        funding for global labor rights programs. Congress 
        continues to deny requested funding cuts and has 
        maintained international labor funding, including for 
        Bangladesh.

    Some global brands insist suppliers ensure labor rights and 
        safe work environments. However, their purchasing 
        practices often incentivize the opposite behavior.

    Western brands have effectively used their economic 
        leverage to improve the safety culture in factories 
        from which they source directly. However, the low 
        prices they pay for garments, as well as poor 
        forecasting practices and unfair penalties for 
        production delays, continue to incentivize factory 
        owners to cut corners on safety and violate labor 
        rights.

    Consumers in Western countries are willing to pay more for 
        clothes made under safe working conditions where labor 
        rights are respected.


                         report recommendations


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of 
        Peaceful Assembly and of Association should:
    Immediately launch an investigation into allegations of 
        widespread abuse--including gender-based violence--of 
        RMG workers in Bangladesh.

    Conduct a country visit to Bangladesh focused on workers' 
        rights to associate, join a union, conduct union 
        activities and be free from retaliation, such as 
        retaliatory firings and false criminal charges.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) should:
    Launch a Commission of Inquiry on Bangladesh in response to 
        alleged violations of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of 
        Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and 
        Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.




The U.S. Government should:
    Support, in its capacity as a member of the ILO Governing 
        Body of the International Labour Office, the launch of 
        a Commission of Inquiry on Bangladesh.

    Maintain the suspension of trade benefits under the 
        Generalized System of Preferences until the government 
        of Bangladesh fully implements the 16-point labor 
        action plan (formerly known as the GSP Action Plan) 
        that the United States presented to the government of 
        Bangladesh in 2013.

    Update the 16-point labor action plan to reflect the new 
        challenges in Bangladesh's RMG sector--including abuse 
        of workers and increased violations of workers' rights.

    Consider imposing visa bans against government officials 
        and factory owners implicated in retaliatory violence 
        against labor organizers.

    Increase funding for U.S. programs promoting labor rights 
        in Bangladesh, particularly the right to organize and 
        bargain collectively.

    Under the auspices of the Government Accountability Office, 
        conduct an analysis of the status of labor rights in 
        apparel-producing countries to inform U.S. government 
        policy and programming.




The Government of Bangladesh should:
    Protect union leaders from retaliation and illegal 
        terminations by promptly and effectively investigating 
        and prosecuting factory owners who have violated labor 
        laws, including by engaging in anti-union activity and 
        abuse of workers.

    Carry out independent and impartial investigations of 
        alleged violations of internationally recognized labor 
        rights and abuse of workers--including sexual 
        harassment--and prosecute those responsible.

    Complete pending investigations of unfair labor practices 
        in a thorough and expeditious manner.

    Properly compensate workers who were victims of false 
        criminal cases filed by factory management and police.

    Revise the country's labor law to ensure it conforms with 
        international labor standards, particularly with the 
        ILO Conventions on Labor Inspection, Freedom of 
        Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 
        and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. 
        Consult civil society and independent trade unions in 
        reforms.

    Expeditiously register unions that meet administrative 
        requirements and transparently provide information to 
        applicants throughout the process.




The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) 
        should:
    Ensure that workers' representatives have power equal to 
        the BGMEA and participating brands on the Ready-Made 
        Garment Sustainability Council Board of Directors.

    Hold factory owners and management accountable for credible 
        allegations of worker abuse and violations of labor 
        rights.




Apparel Retailers and Global Brands Sourcing from Bangladesh should:
    Collectively develop and implement a policy of zero-
        tolerance on violence and harassment, especially 
        gender-based violence and harassment, and make these 
        expectations public.

    Ensure that local initiatives maintain the high standards 
        established by the international factory safety 
        initiatives, including breaking contracts with 
        suppliers that are non-compliant with safety and labor 
        rights standards.

    Ensure that pricing and sourcing contracts with RMG 
        factories incorporate cost of labor and safety 
        compliance--including cost of the minimum wage 
        increase, overtime payments, and all legal benefits--to 
        eliminate incentives for unsafe conditions and worker 
        abuse.


                 basis of findings and recommendations


    The findings and recommendations in this report are based 
on congressional oversight following the Rana Plaza tragedy and 
on a July 2019 visit to Dhaka by Committee Staff. Staff visited 
garment factories supplying Western brands and met with factory 
owners, Bangladeshi government officials, labor and civil 
society activists, the BGMEA, and representatives of the Accord 
on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Staff conducted 
separate meetings with union leaders and garment workers, 
including both union and non-union workers. Separately, 
Committee Staff engaged with USAID, European Union and U.S. 
diplomats, as well as the Ready-Made Garment Sustainability 
Council that succeeded the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker 
Safety.



       INTRODUCTION: FACTORIES ARE NOW SAFER, BUT WORKERS ARE NOT

                              ----------                              

    On November 24, 2012, Reba Khatun, 27, was on the third 
level of the Tazreen Fashions factory walking up a flight of 
stairs when a fire broke out. Trapped by the smoke from the 
fire and desperate to escape the flames, she jumped out of a 
window, and fell three stories to the ground. Khatun survived, 
but with several injuries.\10\ Years later, she remains wary of 
returning to a large factory job and can still hear the sounds 
of Tazreen Fashions workers shouting ``Save me, save me.''\11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ Khatun sustained spinal and leg injuries that required 
treatment at three separate hospitals.
    \11\ Chris Herlinger, ``Survivors Still Coping with Trauma of 2012 
Factory Fire,'' National Catholic Review, Apr. 20, 2016.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Tazreen's managers had illegally stored large amounts of 
fabric and yarn, fueling the fire.\12\ They also ignored the 
fire alarms and ordered workers to continue working in order to 
meet production quotas. Workers that did try to escape found 
doors and gates locked. One hundred and twelve workers did not 
find a way out and lost their lives that day. Two hundred, 
including Reba Khatun, were left grievously injured.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\ Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Majority Staff, Worker 
Safety and Labor Rights in Bangladesh's Garment Sector, at 2, Nov. 22, 
2013; Julfikar Ali Manik & Jim Yardley, ``Bangladesh Finds Gross 
Negligence in Factory Fire,'' The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2012.
    \13\ Farid Ahmed, ``At least 117 Killed in Fire at Bangladeshi 
Clothing Factory,'' CNN, Nov. 25, 2012; Chris Herlinger, ``Survivors 
Still Coping with Trauma of 2012 Factory Fire,'' National Catholic 
Review, Apr. 20, 2016.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Five months after the Tazreen fire, deep cracks appeared in 
the walls of an eight-story building on the outskirts of Dhaka 
known as Rana Plaza, which housed factories producing clothes 
for Western brands such as Mango, Walmart, Primark, and 
Benetton. A local engineer inspected the building and deemed it 
unsafe. As he fled, he urged everyone to evacuate. The police 
ordered the building to be emptied until further inspection, 
but the owner, Mohammad Sohel Rana, dismissed the police orders 
and instructed employees to return to work the next day or risk 
losing their jobs.\14\ Sometime before 9am on April 24, 2013, 
more than 2,000 workers in need of their meager pay and lacking 
union representation apprehensively entered the building. The 
entire structure soon crumbled and fell to the ground, taking 
less than 90 seconds to collapse.\15\ Found in the rubble were 
broken sewing machines, concrete slabs, and crushed bodies.\16\ 
The building collapse killed 1,138 people and injured more than 
2,000.\17\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 5.
    \15\ Michael Safi & Dominic Rushe, ``Rana Plaza, Five Years On: 
Safety of Workers Hangs in Balance in Bangladesh,'' The Guardian, Apr. 
24, 2018.
    \16\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 5.
    \17\ Human Rights Watch, Paying for a Bus Ticket and Expecting to 
Fly: How Apparel Brand Purchasing Practices Drive Labor Abuses 
(``Paying for a Bus Ticket and Expecting to Fly''), at 47 (Apr. 2019).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters spurred into action 
most of the international brands sourcing from Bangladeshi 
factories. Within months, global retailers created two 
initiatives--the European-led Accord on Fire and Building 
Safety in Bangladesh (``the Accord'') and the American-led 
Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (``the Alliance'')--both 
of which sought to improve building and worker safety in 
Bangladesh's garment sector.\18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Since 2013, these two groundbreaking international 
initiatives have been a force for real change in the Ready-Made 
Garments (RMG) industry in Bangladesh, transforming the culture 
of safety in RMG factories over the course of their five-year 
mandates. They did so in part by leveraging the economic and 
reputational power of brands to inspect the supplying factories 
and require safety improvements. For the first time ever, 
unsafe factories that did not meet the Accord's and the 
Alliance's safety standards were at risk of losing their 
business relationships with participating Western buyers.\19\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 6.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    But, this progress only represents half the picture. While 
factory safety has improved since the Rana Plaza collapse and 
Tazreen Fashions fire, this report finds that labor rights are 
under attack, workers face routine abuse, and female workers 
are being sexually harassed and assaulted in the Bangladesh RMG 
factories that supply many Western brands.



     CHAPTER ONE: ABUSE OF WORKERS IN READY-MADE GARMENT FACTORIES

                              ----------                              

    Nearly four million ready-made garment (RMG) workers in 
Bangladesh produce goods for export to the global market, 
primarily to Europe and North America. Factories vary in size 
and sophistication, ranging from large operations that employ 
thousands of workers, use modern machinery, and hold long-term 
contracts with foreign buyers, to smaller factories that employ 
dozens of workers on a short-term basis and in some cases are 
unregistered. Women are reported to comprise between 60 and 74 
percent of the workers in Bangladesh's garment industry.\20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \20\ Email from International Labor Rights Forum Representative, to 
Committee Staff, Nov. 19, 2019; Ibrahim Hossain Ovi, ``Women's 
Participation in RMG Workforce Declines,'' Dhaka Tribune, Mar. 3, 2018.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Many of Bangladesh's rural poor and women have gained 
employment in this sector, but their rights as workers fall 
considerably below international standards. Factory owners are 
increasingly operating with impunity and a belief that they can 
unfairly fire, abuse, and attack workers.\21\ According to the 
Executive Director of the Accord, Rob Wayss, it is common for 
the initiative to receive credible safety and health complaints 
of workers being slapped, pushed, and subjected to vulgar 
language.\22\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \21\ Worker's Rights Consortium, Banning Hope: Bangladesh Garment 
Workers Seeking a Dollar an Hour Face Mass Firings, Violence, and False 
Arrests, at 29 (Apr. 2019), https://www.workersrights.org/wp-content/
uploads/2019/04/Crackdown-on-Bangladesh.pdf.
    \22\ Rob Wayss, Executive Director, Accord on Fire and Building 
Safety in Bangladesh, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate Committee 
on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Rubana Huq, President of the Bangladesh Garment 
Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), an influential 
national trade association that represents the RMG sector, has 
suggested the ``allegations of labor abuse in the industry 
[are] isolated, negative practices.''\23\ Labor advocates, 
activists, and experts paint a different picture. Sexual 
harassment allegations are regularly received via the Accord 
occupational safety and health complaints mechanism. Sexual 
harassment prevention is also a component of the Accord's 
factory based safety training programs.\24\ In one illustrative 
case, the U.S.-based labor rights organization Solidarity 
Center reported in November 2018 that political allies and men 
associated with the management personnel of a Konabari factory 
intimidated union leaders and organizers who had been 
organizing workers at the factory for several years. Just weeks 
after the union filed for registration with the Department of 
Labor, these men assaulted a male labor organizer and took a 
female organizer to an isolated area and raped her.\25\ With 
the assistance from the union and labor lawyers, the rape 
victim reported the assault to the police, which charged and 
detained the perpetrators temporarily. They have been released, 
but the government continues to prosecute the case against 
them. This is a unique case in which justice is being pursued, 
although not yet delivered. The victim's quest for justice is 
facilitated by support from union and labor lawyers, but most 
gender-based violence survivors are not so lucky.\26\ According 
to international labor advocates, victims of gender-based 
violence generally do not seek accountability due to a deep-
rooted culture of shaming sexual assault victims in 
Bangladesh.\27\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \23\ Anuradha Nagaraj, ``First Female Boss Vows to Shake up 
Bangladesh's Fashion Factories,'' Reuters, Apr. 9, 2019.
    \24\ Email from Rob Wayss, Executive Director, Accord on Fire and 
Building Safety in Bangladesh, to Committee Staff, Jan. 27, 2020.
    \25\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Oct. 7, 2019.
    \26\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Feb. 21, 2020.
    \27\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Oct. 7, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Prominent labor leader Kalpona Akter describes the 
discrimination, sexual abuse, and predicament female workers in 
Bangladesh's garment sector face by male supervisors as 
follows:


        A woman is continuously pressured and asked many times. 
        She's afraid that someone will find out and she's 
        afraid what will happen if she becomes pregnant or her 
        coworkers or her family find out. If there is a 
        beautiful girl on the production floor, the supervisor 
        can try to convince her that he's in love, or if she 
        has a good relationship with him then he can increase 
        her salary. First it might be, ``Let's go to the 
        park.'' Later on he tries to convince her to have sex. 
        ``Let's have sex and maybe I'll let you leave the 
        factory early at 5 pm or 6 pm or you can walk around 
        the production floor without being harassed. . . .'' 
        She's also been trapped. ``You need to continue this 
        relationship with me or I'll tell others.'' She is now 
        afraid she will never be able to get married, or, if 
        the community finds out, that they will look at her in 
        a different way and think of her as a sex worker. If a 
        woman has sex before she is married, she can rarely get 
        married or she will be considered a prostitute for 
        sleeping with multiple guys or she'll be considered a 
        bad person. There are lots of rape cases involving 
        women workers. The woman is always blamed. ``She is 
        bad; that's why it happened to her.''\28\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \28\ International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), Our Voices, Our 
Safety: Bangladeshi Garment Workers Speak Out, at 41 (Dec. 2015), 
https://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications/
Our%20Voices,%20Our%20Safety%20Online--1.pdf.


    Bangladeshi women generally do not talk about their 
experiences of sexual abuse because society puts the blame on 
them. They fear backlash or being harassed further. Beyond the 
stigma, these workers also fear being fired if they report the 
abuse.\29\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \29\ Email, Representative, International Labor Rights Forum, to 
Committee Staff, Nov. 19, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Men in garment factories also face mistreatment, and in 
some cases, physical abuse, in the workplace. During a July 
2019 meeting between garment workers and Committee Staff, a 
worker sat hunched over, holding his arm over his chest. Staff 
invited him to share his story. He first hesitated, but 
eventually revealed that his factory manager had punched him in 
the face and kicked him in the ribs. In that meeting, other 
garment workers agreed that verbal and physical abuse is a 
regular occurrence in their workplaces.\30\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \30\ Factory Worker, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      FEMALE GARMENT WORKERS FACE 
                    DISPROPORTIONATE LEVELS OF ABUSE

    Bangladesh's garment industry is dependent on female 
workers, who are subjected to abuse by factory managers, who 
are mostly men. That abuse includes verbal abuse, physical 
violence, coercion, threats, and retaliation. Female workers 
have little to no ability to push back on the abuse because 
they are concentrated in subordinate roles, such as machine 
operators, checkers, and helpers, and rarely reach leadership 
positions.\31\ In an interview with the U.S.-based human rights 
advocacy organization Human Rights Watch, a female worker at a 
Dhaka-based factory employing mostly women shared an anecdote 
to describe the abusive conditions that female workers face. 
When workers protested their manager's refusal to offer 
maternity leave benefits, a factory owner said, ``If you're all 
concentrating on f****g, why are you working here? Go and work 
in a brothel.''\32\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \31\ Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee, End Gender-Based Violence and 
HarassmenteGender Justice on Garment Global Supply Chains: An Agenda to 
Transform Fast Fashion, Global Labor and Justice and Asia Floor Wage 
Alliance, at 15 (2019). .
    \32\ Human Rights Watch, Whoever Raises Their Head Suffers the 
Most, at 24-25 (Apr. 2015).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In October 2019, reports emerged that garment workers at a 
factory operated by the Youngone Corporation, which makes 
clothes for North American brand Lululemon, are ``paid scant 
wages, verbally harassed by their managers with slurs like 
`slut' and `whore,' and face the threat of physical violence on 
the job.''\33\ One female factory worker claimed she was 
slapped for leaving work early because she did not feel well. 
``[The technician in charge of her line] slapped me so hard my 
cheeks turned red. . . .''\34\ In another illustrative case, 
workers reported, ``During last Ramadan, they created a new 
line and recruited new female workers. One day, a technician 
hit a label operator so hard on her chest. We could see she was 
in pain the whole day. . . . She was lying in the back of the 
line for hours but our bosses did nothing about her.''\35\ 
Lululemon reportedly indicated that its social responsibility 
and production team visited the factory in Bangladesh 
immediately to speak with workers and it will work with an 
``independent non-profit third party to fully investigate the 
matter.'' It went on to state that, ``While our production at 
this factory is extremely limited, we will ensure workers are 
protected from any form of abuse and are treated fairly.''\36\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \33\ Hannah Gold, ``Workers Making Lululemon Clothes Say They're 
Beaten and Harassed on the Job,'' The Cut, Oct. 17, 2019.
    \34\ Sarah Marsh & Redwan Ahmed, ``Workers Making 88 
Lululemon Leggings Claim They are Beaten,'' The Guardian, Oct. 14, 
2019.
    \35\ Id.
    \36\ Hannah Gold, ``Workers Making Lululemon Clothes Say They're 
Beaten and Harassed on the Job,'' The Cut, Oct. 17, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity conducted focus 
groups and interviews in 2019 and found many examples of 
gender-based violence in RMG factories, ranging from a line 
chief touching a worker's breast while showing her how to 
operate a machine, to another forcing a worker to lie down 
under a table in his office and raping her.\37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \37\ Email from International Labor Rights Forum Representative, to 
Committee Staff, Nov. 19, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Hafsa Begum, a 20-year-old garment worker, was finishing a 
night shift at her factory job in Dhaka when her line manager 
sexually assaulted her. ``I kicked and slapped him, but he 
still managed to drag me into a dark alley next to the 
factory,'' explains Begum.\38\ She said he forcefully kissed 
and touched her, and he threatened to fire her if she did not 
have sex with him. Begum sought the help of a local union 
leader, and eventually her manager was fired. But speaking out 
has its consequences. Begum's abuser was not criminally 
prosecuted, and she had to leave her job with a negotiated 
resignation compensation package. She lives in fear of reprisal 
for exposing her abuser and seeking accountability.\39\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \38\ Jennifer Chowdhury, ``#MeToo Bangladesh: The Textile Workers 
United against Harassment,'' The Guardian, Sept. 10, 2019.
    \39\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ActionAid UK, a chapter of the South Africa-based 
international non-governmental organization ActionAid 
International, published in 2019 a survey of 200 garment 
factory workers in Dhaka, including 181 women, and found that 
80 percent reported having experienced or witnessed sexual 
harassment and abuse at work.\40\ According to Aruna Kashyap, 
Senior Counsel at Human Rights Watch:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \40\ Sarah Young, ``Growing Number of Garment Factory Workers in 
Bangladesh Subjected to Sexual Harassment and Violence, Action Aid UK 
Finds,'' Independent, June 10, 2019; ActionAid, ``80% of garment 
workers in Bangladesh have experienced or witnessed sexual violence and 
harassment at work,'' June 10, 2019.


        If garment workers didn't face retaliation for exposing 
        sexual harassment, many of them would be screaming 
        #MeToo at the top of their lungs. Their experiences are 
        part of the global crisis of workplace sexual 
        harassment, less visible in places like garment 
        factories, but no less important than the high-profile 
        cases involving Hollywood, the media, and political 
        figures.\41\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \41\ Human Rights Watch, Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Garment 
Industry, (Dec 2017).


    The combination of gender discrimination ingrained in 
society, limited female representation in political life, and 
the shaming of women who report sexual abuse hinders women from 
seeking justice.\42\ Suffice to say, abuses in Bangladesh's RMG 
factories are not simply ``isolated, negative practices.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \42\ Jennifer Chowdhury, ``#MeToo Bangladesh: The Textile Workers 
United against Harassment,'' The Guardian, Sept. 10, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At the forefront of the movement against sexual abuse and 
assault of women in Bangladesh is labor activist Dolly Akhtar, 
who was only 16 years old when she started working in garment 
factories in Dhaka that supply Western brands. She accepted the 
low wages and long hours, but did not expect the culture of 
sexual abuse in RMG factories. ``When the line manager at the 
very first factory I worked at tried to get me to sleep with 
him, I was terrified,'' she said.\43\ She left this factory job 
for another only to find herself in the same situation. Akhtar 
started to work full-time as an organizer for the Sommilito 
Garments Sramik Federation, one of Bangladesh's largest trade 
organizations, spearheading efforts to fight sexual harassment, 
assault, and exploitation in the country's garment 
factories.\44\ Committee Staff spoke to Akhtar about her 
experience in the Bangladesh RMG industry, and she made a plea 
for vigilance:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \43\ Id.
    \44\ Id.


        This economy is developing constantly. A major 
        contributor is female workers, and these women workers 
        are harassed in public places as well, not just in 
        factories. So I request all concerned people in this 
        industry to treat these workers with dignity and 
        respect and that influential persons in [the] community 
        and society also do the same.\45\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \45\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Feb. 21, 2020.

                          CULTURE OF IMPUNITY

    There appears to be little political will to tackle the 
pervasive culture of gender-based violence in RMG factories. If 
there is no accountability, male perpetrators will continue to 
prey on the female workers who report to them. Bangladesh's 
Supreme Court issued guidelines against sexual harassment at 
work in 2009, but ten years later, ineffective implementation 
of the court order and lack of protection from retribution when 
workers complain have rendered the ruling meaningless.\46\ The 
United Nations should act quickly to investigate allegations of 
abuse, particularly abuse of, and violence against, women in 
RMG factories.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \46\ Mizanur Rahman, ``10 Years On, HC Guidelines against Sexual 
Harassment Neglected,'' Dhaka Tribune, May 4, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In November 2017, Bangladesh's leading independent human 
rights organization, Odhikar, reported that:


        Women are becoming victims of such violence due to non-
        implementation of laws, a prevailing culture of 
        impunity in the government, lack of victims and witness 
        protection, criminalization and corruption in the law 
        enforcement agencies, supremacy of socially and 
        politically influential persons, poor economic 
        conditions of women, weak administration, and also due 
        to lack of awareness in society. In most cases, victims 
        are not getting justice due to a prevailing culture of 
        impunity, which instigates more such crimes and 
        encourages potential perpetrators.\47\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \47\ Odhikar, Human Rights Monitoring Report November 1-30 2017, at 
29 (Dec. 2017), http://odhikar.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/human-
rights-monitoring-report-November-2017--Eng.pdf.





                     CHAPTER TWO: WORKERS' RIGHTS 
                              UNDER ATTACK

                              ----------                              

    Abusive treatment of workers is further exacerbated by a 
growing repression of labor rights, including the right to 
associate, organize, and collectively bargain. In a meeting 
with Committee Staff, one garment worker asserted that respect 
for labor rights is the worst it has been in Bangladesh's 
history.\48\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \48\ Factory Worker, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In December 2016, the government of Bangladesh and factory 
owners initiated a severe crackdown on labor rights following a 
largely peaceful protest by thousands of garment workers 
calling for higher wages. At least 1,500 workers were 
dismissed, 38 union leaders were arrested on baseless criminal 
charges, and trade union offices were closed or came under 
intense pressure from government authorities.\49\ Only after 
Western brands sourcing from Bangladesh boycotted a high-
profile annual summit organized by the BGMEA did the 
Bangladeshi government start releasing detained workers. In 
February 2017, the government and the BGMEA reached an 
agreement with the IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, an umbrella 
body for many of the country's garment unions and a local 
affiliate of the global union IndustriAll, to release those 
remaining in prison, reinstate fired workers, and drop pending 
criminal charges against the arrested workers and leaders.\50\ 
The brands' advocacy had a significant impact on government and 
the BGMEA's decision to change course, but this proved to be 
short-lived.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \49\ Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, 
Maquila Solidarity Network & Worker Rights Consortium, Update on the 
Labor Rights Crisis in Bangladesh (Apr. 21, 2017), https://
laborrights.org/publications/update-labor-rights-crisis-bangladesh.
    \50\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Two years later, as part of the ongoing pressure on 
workers' rights, RMG workers faced another crackdown. In 
September 2018, the government announced a wage increase for 
Bangladeshi garment workers to go into effect that December. 
The new minimum wage was announced to be set at 8,000 taka 
($95) a month, up from 5,300 taka ($63).\51\ However, this 
increased wage primarily benefitted junior workers. Senior 
workers received only a modest increase that failed to factor 
in rising costs of living.\52\ The inadequate wage increase 
sparked months-long protests and a government and factory 
owner-led crackdown on Bangladeshi workers in retaliation to 
the protests.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \51\ Marjorie van Elven, ``Bangladesh Raises Minimum Wage for 
Garment Workers,'' Fashion United, Sept. 14, 2018.
    \52\ Fair Labor Association, Minimum Wage Adjustments in Bangladesh 
Stir Protests and Mass Worker Dismissals from Factories (Mar. 2019); 
Factory Worker, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate Committee on 
Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                 GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO WORKER PROTESTS

    Anger over the uneven and inadequate wage increase led to a 
wave of wage-related strikes in December 2018 and January 2019 
across the country. In January, police clashed with protestors 
and used tear gas, water cannons, batons, and rubber bullets 
against them, injuring dozens and killing one.\53\ On January 
8, 2019, 22-year old Sumon Mia, a worker at Anlima Textile in 
the Savar sub-district of Dhaka, was returning from lunch with 
a colleague when they got caught in the protests. His colleague 
told Human Rights Watch, ``Police started shooting and the 
workers started running away, so Sumon and I started running 
and suddenly Sumon was shot in his chest and he fell down. I 
fled. Later I found Sumon's body lying in the road. The police 
didn't even take his body.''\54\ Police reportedly raided 
homes, shooting indiscriminately. One woman told Human Rights 
Watch that she could hear the police coming towards her house 
on a raid while shooting. She heard six rounds of firing; two 
bullets hit her window and one hit her lower abdomen.\55\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \53\ ``Bangladesh Police, Garment Workers Clash in Protests,'' 
Associated Press, Jan. 9, 2019.
    \54\ Sushmita S. Preetha, ``Post-mortem of a Worker's Death,'' The 
Daily Star, Jan. 18, 2019.
    \55\ ``Bangladesh: Investigate Dismissals of Protesting Workers,'' 
Human Rights Watch, Mar. 5, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/05/
bangladesh-investigate-dismissals-protesting-workers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    According to the IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, an 
estimated 11,600 workers were fired, forced to resign, or 
jailed for participating in those strikes.\56\ Some factory 
owners also sought to block union leaders and workers who 
protested from finding a job elsewhere. In May 2019, lists with 
names and photographs of terminated employees were posted at 
some factories, leading to the blacklisting of at least 1,793 
workers.\57\ Committee Staff met with some blacklisted garment 
workers in Dhaka in July 2019 who indicated that they remained 
unemployed. Workers shared anecdotes about themselves or other 
workers who did not participate in the protests, but were still 
dismissed and blacklisted.\58\ Ministry of Labour and 
Employment officials told Committee Staff that the dismissals 
and criminal cases were in response to vandalism and looting, 
and claimed a lack of knowledge about workers and union leaders 
being blacklisted for engaging in protests. They made this 
claim despite widespread news coverage and reports made to the 
Ministry and the BGMEA from trade union leaders contradicting 
their claims.\59\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \56\ IndustriAll Global Union, ``Over 11,600 Bangladesh Garment 
Workers Lose Jobs and Face Repression,'' Feb. 11, 2019, http://
www.industriall-union.org/over-11600-bangladesh-garment-workers-lose-
jobs-and-face-repression.
    \57\ Email from U.S. Agency for International Development Official, 
to Committee Staff, May 29, 2019.
    \58\ Garment Workers, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \59\ Ministry of Labour and Employment Official, Meeting with 
Committee Staff, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to 
Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Garment workers and union leaders in Dhaka described to 
Committee Staff a growing trend of factory owners filing 
criminal charges, largely fabricated, against union members and 
leaders.\60\ Human Rights Watch reported that 29 criminal cases 
were filed against 551 named individuals and more than 3,000 
unnamed people--meaning that the authorities could arbitrarily 
fill those slots with the names of union leaders or workers 
they deem to be troublemakers. In January and February 2019, 
authorities arrested approximately 50 workers and denied bail 
to 11 for several weeks.\61\ Despite the BGMEA's assurances 
that member factory owners would drop the baseless charges 
brought against workers, only 14 of 35 cases have been 
dismissed to date, largely due to pressure on brands from 
advocacy groups.\62\ Some of the U.S. brands buying from 
factories that have filed trumped-up charges against workers 
that demonstrated for higher wages include Abercrombie & Fitch, 
American Eagle Outfitters, Gap, Kontoor Brands, VF Corporation, 
and Walmart.\63\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \60\ Garment Workers, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \61\ ``Bangladesh: Investigate Dismissals of Protesting Workers,'' 
Human Rights Watch, Mar. 5, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/05/
bangladesh-investigate-dismissals-protesting-workers.
    \62\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Feb. 21, 2020.
    \63\ Email from International Labor Rights Forum Representative, to 
Committee Staff, February 26, 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The BGMEA is an influential private trade association with 
political clout in Bangladesh, representing the RMG sector in 
Bangladesh.\64\ During the 2018-2019 wage protests, BGMEA 
leadership said that only workers who vandalized factories 
would lose their jobs, yet thousands of non-violent protestors 
were reportedly fired.\65\ More than one year after the 
protests, hundreds continue to be blacklisted over what factory 
owners and managers insist are criminal charges.\66\ The BGMEA 
is investigating member factories that terminated workers 
during the unrest, but ultimately the responsibility to 
investigate and prosecute credible allegations of crimes, 
including abuse and labor rights violations should rest with 
the government, not a private association of factory 
owners.\67\ To date, no factory owners or managers have been 
prosecuted for unfair labor practices.\68\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \64\ See Chapter Four.
    \65\ Refayet Ullah Mirdha & Aklakur Rahman Akash, ``RMG Unrest: No 
`Innocent' to be Sacked,'' Jan. 18, 2019, The Daily Star https://
www.thedailystar.net/business/no-innocent-rmg-worker-in-bangladesh-
will-be-terminated-bgmea-1688917; ``Bangladesh: Investigate Dismissals 
of Protesting Workers,'' Human Rights Watch, Mar. 5, 2019, https://
www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/05/bangladesh-investigate-dismissals-
protesting-workers.
    \66\ Chris Remington, ``Bangladeshi Workers Still Facing Repression 
over Wage Protests,'' EcoTextile News, Jan. 15, 2020.
    \67\ Bangladeshi Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association 
(BGMEA), ``BGMEA Probes IBC Allegations of Worker Lay-offs by 
Factory,'' (accessed Jan. 22, 2020), http://www.bgmea.com.bd/home/
activity/BGMEA--probes--IBC--allegations--of--worker--lay-off--by--
factories.
    \68\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Feb. 4, 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The 2018-2019 wage protests came amid Bangladesh's 
parliamentary elections, which were marred by irregularities, 
attacks on the opposition, and intimidation of voters.\69\ The 
protests represented a test for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 
who responded by declaring an additional minimum wage increase 
for senior level workers. Workers told Committee Staff that 
they do not find the pay rates to be a living wage and worry 
about making ends meet given high costs of living in Dhaka.\70\ 
Nonetheless, union leaders agreed to the deal. Bangladesh 
Garment and Industrial Workers Federation President Babul Akter 
explained, ``We had to accept it as the proposal came from our 
prime minister. How can we dishonor it?''\71\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \69\ Sumit Ganguly, ``The World Should be Watching Bangladesh's 
Election Debacle,'' Foreign Policy, Jan. 7, 2019.
    \70\ Garment Workers, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \71\ Ruma Paul, ``Bangladesh Garment Workers Stage Protests, Say 
Pay Rise Insufficient,'' Reuters, Jan. 14, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Government security forces have reportedly intimidated and 
arbitrarily detained workers at the behest of factory owners. 
For example, union workers reported that during the 2018-2019 
minimum wage protests, unionized workers at Tivoli Apparel Ltd. 
factory, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, refrained from engaging in 
the protests.\72\ Vandalism occurred in neighboring factories, 
so management closed the Tivoli factory for one day. Despite 
constructive work by union leaders at this factory to establish 
agreed-upon wages in a Memorandum of Understanding with 
management, special police entered the homes of, and detained, 
five union leaders the night after the agreement was signed on 
January 12, 2019.\73\ The workers allege that they were 
blindfolded and tortured into falsely confessing involvement in 
vandalizing factories, criminally charged, and spent two weeks 
in jail.\74\ The workers were eventually released on January 
21, 2019, and the union negotiated with Tivoli management to 
secure termination benefits for some of those leaders and 
reinstatement for two of them. However, both union leaders 
chose to receive severance instead of reinstatement, apparently 
out of fear that management would retaliate against them again 
in the future.\75\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \72\ Email from Solidarity Center Representative, to Committee 
Staff, Oct. 4, 2019.
    \73\ Id.
    \74\ Id.
    \75\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    CHALLENGES TO UNION REGISTRATION

    Despite international support for the rights of Bangladeshi 
unions to organize and register, and renewed energy and courage 
on the part of labor organizers, the challenges to union 
registration in Bangladesh remain considerable.
    Widespread distrust remains between employers and trade 
unions, and negative attitudes toward unions pose barriers to 
both the formation of new unions and to existing independent 
unions. The revisions to the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act 
in 2013 led to an initial strong growth in the number of RMG 
trade unions, however, that trend did not continue.\76\ The 
U.S. State Department reported that after a sharp increase in 
trade union applications in 2014, there has been a decline 
every year since.\77\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \76\ European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh Compact: 
Technical Status Report, at 15 (Sept. 2018), https://
trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2018/september/tradoc--157426.pdf.
    \77\ U.S. Department of State, Report to Congress on the Government 
of Bangladesh's Support for Human Rights; Protection of Freedom of 
Expression, Association, and Religion, and Due Process of Law; and 
Ensuring a Free, Fair, and Participatory Elections, Jan. 1, 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In addition, the union registration process remains 
cumbersome. Union leaders consistently expressed concern to 
Committee Staff about the bureaucratic hurdles to registering 
independent unions.\78\ The Bangladeshi government currently 
rejects a high number of union applications.\79\ The European 
Commission found a need to protect the Bangladeshi trade union 
registration process from arbitrary rejections.\80\ When 
discussing this topic, a senior Bangladeshi government official 
admitted to Committee Staff that corruption and bribery are 
serious problems.\81\ According to International Labour 
Organization (ILO) member states, the Ministry of Labour 
received 1,031 union registration applications between 2010 and 
2018 and denied 46 percent of the applications.\82\ The 
Ministry of Labour and Employment reported that the country had 
596 unions in the garment sector; this figure includes 574 new 
unions in the garment sector since 2013.\83\ The Solidarity 
Center and trade union federation representatives assess that 
the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour officials managing the 
registration process have too much discretion.\84\ The ILO 
Committee of Experts also found that the government rejects 
applications for registration at a high rate, and that ``a 
substantial proportion of rejections come without 
explanation.''\85\ They request that the government ensures 
that registration is ``a simple, objective, and transparent 
process, which does not restrict the right of workers to 
establish organizations without previous authorization.''\86\ 
In many cases, ministry employees or officials reject 
applications for union registration due to minor mistakes such 
as misspelled member names. Once those mistakes are corrected, 
they may identify additional arbitrary reasons to reject 
applications.\87\ The U.S. State Department reports that 
``registration applications are often rejected or challenged 
for erroneous or extrajudicial reasons,'' and ``prospective 
unions continued to report rejections based on reasons not 
listed in the labor law.''\88\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \78\ Garment Workers, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \79\ European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh Compact: 
Technical Status Report, at 3 (Sept. 2018), https://trade.ec.europa.eu/
doclib/docs/2018/september/tradoc--157426.pdf.
    \80\ Id.
    \81\ Bangladeshi Government Official, Interview with Committee 
Staff, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, 
Bangladesh, July 2019.
    \82\ ``ILO members states to propose inquiry commission against 
Bangladesh,'' NewAgeBD, Aug. 26, 2019.
    \83\ U.S. Department of State, Report to Congress on the Government 
of Bangladesh's Support for Human Rights; Protection of Freedom of 
Expression, Association, and Religion, and Due Process of Law; and 
Ensuring a Free, Fair, and Participatory Elections, Jan. 1, 2020.
    \84\ Trade Union Leaders, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \85\ International Labor Organization, Observation (CEACR)-adopted 
2017, published 10th ILC Session (2018), https://www.ilo.org/dyn/
normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:13100:0::NO:13100:-P13100--COMMENT--
ID:3343756:NO (last visited Feb. 21, 2020).
    \86\ Id.
    \87\ Solidarity Center Representative, Interview with Committee 
Staff, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, 
Bangladesh, July 2019.
    \88\ U.S. Department of State, Report to Congress on the Government 
of Bangladesh's Support for Human Rights; Protection of Freedom of 
Expression, Association, and Religion, and Due Process of Law; and 
Ensuring a Free, Fair, and Participatory Elections, Jan. 1, 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A common talking point from government officials, the 
BGMEA, and factory owners in Bangladesh is that ``factory 
owners like to have unions'' because it keeps everyone 
accountable and the workers happy.\89\ However, the Accord's 
Rob Wayss said that ``they seem more to like to have a union if 
it is a union that is agreeable to management positions and if 
it does not raise disputes, disagreements, and alleged 
violations with the brands, global unions, and labor rights 
support organizations.''\90\ Local union leaders referred to 
these type of unions as ``yellow unions.'' They are set up by 
factory owners with the goal of preventing the registration of 
genuine trade unions. This practice has resulted in authorities 
rejecting the registration application of independent union 
leaders because another union already exists--the ``yellow'' 
one. After the 2018-2019 protests, ``yellow union'' members 
approached independent union leaders and pressured them to sign 
documents to accept responsibility for protests and damages to 
factories in exchange for back wages, essentially attempting to 
coerce workers to admit guilt even if they had not engaged in 
vandalism.\91\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \89\ Email from Rob Wayss, Executive Director, Accord on Fire and 
Building Safety in Bangladesh, to Committee Staff, Jan. 27, 2020.
    \90\ Id.
    \91\ ``Bangladesh: Investigate Dismissals of Protesting Workers,'' 
Human Rights Watch, Mar. 5, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/05/
bangladesh-investigate-dismissals-protesting-workers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Trade unions face harassment, intimidation, and other 
obstacles when seeking to register and, once registered, when 
trying to organize. Employer retaliation against workers who 
file union registration papers is common. Rita Akhter, a labor 
activist and garment worker at the Korean-owned Chunji Knit 
Ltd. factory, was physically attacked when trying to form a 
union, which had a chilling effect on other workers' efforts to 
form unions in that area. She noted, ``The workers say to us, 
even you organizers were beaten up by the factory management--
so how can you protect us, what will be our fate if we join 
you?''\92\ The government needs to pursue genuine efforts to 
combat anti-union activity and unfair labor practices. The 
overall environment of impunity remains a significant concern 
for Bangladesh's workers, as the government of Bangladesh has 
been slow to adjudicate unfair labor practices cases. While the 
government of Bangladesh highlights that a number of cases of 
unfair labor practices, including cases of unfair termination 
of employment, have been referred to the courts in recent 
years, they are unable to point to a single successful 
prosecution.\93\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \92\ Human Rights Watch, Whoever Raises Their Head Suffers the 
Most, at 50 (Apr. 2015). http://features.hrw.org/features/HRW--2015--
reports/Bangladesh--Garment--Factories/index.html
    \93\ Email from U.S. Government Official, to Committee Staff, Feb. 
20, 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Labor activist Kalpona Akter asserts that forming unions is 
a right that exists on paper in Bangladesh's constitution and 
laws, as well as in the ILO Convention on Right to Organise and 
Collective Bargaining, which Bangladesh has ratified; however, 
``the factory owners are so reluctant toward the unions.. . . 
Whenever [workers] join with unions, they will face threats, 
they get fired . . .and sometimes even forced [sic] to leave 
their community. And the same happens when workers raise their 
voices against the poverty wages they've been getting.''\94\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \94\ Michelle Chen, ``6 Years after the Rana Plaza Collapse, are 
Government Workers Any Safer?'' The Nation, July 15, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The ILO Governing Body of the International Labour Office, 
which includes governments, has the option to establish a 
``Commission of Inquiry'' (COI) to examine complaints against 
member States for not complying with ratified conventions.\95\ 
In June 2019, union delegates sought a COI against the 
government of Bangladesh given complaints that the government 
violated ILO conventions on labor inspection, freedom of 
association, right to organize, and collective bargaining.\96\ 
The ILO decided to put this item on the agenda of the 338th 
Session of the Governing Body slated to convene in March 2020, 
at which point it will vote whether to establish a COI.\97\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \95\ International Labour Organization, Complaints, https://
www.ilo.org/global/standards/applying-and-promoting-international-
labour-standards/complaints/lang--en/index.htm (last visited [Jan. 23, 
2020]).
    \96\ ``ILO Members States to Propose Inquiry Commission against 
Bangladesh,'' NewAge Business, Aug. 26, 2019 (last accessed Jan. 24, 
2020).
    \97\ International Labour Office, ``First Report: Complaint 
oncerning non-observance by Bangladesh of the Labour Inspection 
Convention, 1947 (No. 81), the Freedom of Association and Protection of 
the Right to Organise Convention, 1949 (No. 98), made under Article 26 
of the ILO Constitution by several delegates to the 108th Session 
(2019) of the International Labour Conference,'' Oct. 29, 2019; ``ILO 
Members States to Propose Inquiry Commission against Bangladesh,'' 
NewAge Business, Aug. 26, 2019 (last accessed Jan. 24, 2020).



                     CHAPTER THREE: FACTORY SAFETY 
                              HAS IMPROVED

                              ----------                              

    Bangladesh provides an ideal combination of cheap labor and 
quick turnaround for fast-fashion manufacturers that produce 
inexpensive clothing rapidly in response to the latest trends. 
For years, Bangladesh worked to facilitate the sector's growth 
with little concern for factory conditions and labor rights. As 
the sector's growth exploded, more and more garment factories 
sprouted up in apartment buildings and multi-use structures 
that were not designed or built to safely handle large numbers 
of workers and machines. While building safety standards 
existed on paper, the government of Bangladesh lacked the 
capacity and political will to enforce them.
    The tragedies of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions served as 
a much-needed wakeup call to the government of Bangladesh that 
safety must be prioritized. What has the government of 
Bangladesh done thus far to make its RMG factories safer? The 
short answer is not enough. The RMG sector in Bangladesh has 
fueled the country's economy for three decades, growing from 
$12,000 in exports in 1978 to annual sales now exceeding $28 
billion.\98\ The sector generates 80 percent of the country's 
export revenue.\99\ Bangladesh is the world's second largest 
garment exporter, and the industry employs nearly four million 
people.\100\ The country has more than halved the percentage of 
people living under the $1.90 poverty line since 1991.\101\ 
Bangladesh's great strides in reducing poverty can largely be 
attributed to its increase in labor earnings due to the 
expansion in RMG sector employment.\102\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \98\ Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Majority Staff, Worker 
Safety and Labor Rights in Bangladesh's Garment Sector, at 3, Nov. 22, 
2013; Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza: The Way 
Forward, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, at 6 (Apr. 
2018).
    \99\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 7.
    \100\ Mostafiz Uddin, ``RMG Industry as the Major Employment 
Sector,'' The Daily Star, Feb. 17, 2019.
    \101\ ``Creating Jobs and Diversifying Exports in Bangladesh,'' 
World Bank, Nov. 14, 2017, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/
2017/11/14/creating-jobs-and-diversifying-exports-in-bangladesh.
    \102\ United Nations Development Program, Bangladesh Quarterly 
Development Update, at 11 (Oct-Dec 2017).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Rana Plaza tragedy led the government of Bangladesh to 
make a series of labor rights commitments to the international 
community and in its 2013 National Tripartite Plan of Action on 
Fire Safety and Structural Integrity (NTPA).\103\ The NTPA 
lists 25 action items in three areas--policy and legislation, 
administration, and practical activities--that were to be 
implemented between June 2013 and December 2014.\104\ The NTPA 
called for the submission of a labor law reform package and 
amendment of the national labor law, recruitment of more safety 
inspectors, creation of a factory information database, and 
establishment of a worker safety hotline. The chart below 
details the NTPA's full list of commitments: \105\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \103\ Government of Bangladesh, The National Tripartite Plan of 
Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity (July 2013).
    \104\ Mohd Raisul Islam Khan & Christa Wichterich, Safety and Labor 
Conditions: The Accord and the National Tripartite Plan of Action for 
the Garment Industry of Bangladesh, Global Labor University, at 20 
(Sept. 2015).
    \105\ Id. at 20-21.; International Labour Organization, ``National 
Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity in 
the Garment Sector of Bangladesh (NTPA), (last accessed February 26, 
2020).

            GOVERNMENT OF BANGLADESH'S 2013 LABOR COMMITMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Activities
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Legislation and Policy           Submission of a labour law reform
                                  package and the amendment of the
                                  Bangladesh Labour Law 2006
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Adoption of a National Occupational
                                  Safety and Health Policy
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Review and adjustment of laws, rules
                                  and regulations related to fire,
                                  building, electrical and chemical
                                  safety
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Establishment of a taskforce of the
                                  cabinet committee on building and fire
                                  safety
========================================================================
Administration                   Recruitment of 200 additional labour
                                  inspectors to the Department of
                                  Inspection for Factories and
                                  Establishments (DIFE)
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Upgrading of the Institution of
                                  Inspection for Factories and
                                  Establishments from a Directorate to a
                                  Department
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Implementation of MoLE project
                                  ``Modernization and Strengthening the
                                  Department of Inspection for Factories
                                  and Establishments''
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Review and adjustment of factory
                                  licensing and certification procedures
                                  concerning fire, structural,
                                  environmental, chemical and electrical
                                  safety
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Consideration of the establishment of a
                                  one-stop shop for fire safety
                                  certification and licensing
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development and introduction of a
                                  unified fire safety checklist to be
                                  used by all relevant authorities
========================================================================
Practical Activities             Inspection and assessment of factory-
                                  level fire and electrical safety needs
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development and implementation of a
                                  factory fire improvement programme
                                  based upon the fire safety needs
                                  assessment
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Inspection and assessment of structural
                                  integrity of all active RMG industries
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development of an accountable and
                                  transparent industry subcontracting
                                  system
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Delivery of a fire safety ``crash
                                  course'' for mid-level factory
                                  management and supervisors
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development and delivery of specific
                                  training on fire safety for union
                                  leaders
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development and delivery of a mass
                                  worker education tool to raise
                                  awareness regarding fire safety, OSH
                                  risks and prevention
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Establishment of a fire safety hotline
                                  for workers through the Department of
                                  Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD)
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development and delivery of specific
                                  training on fire safety and structural
                                  integrity for factory inspectors
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Strengthening of the capacity of Fire
                                  Service and Civil Defence
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development of guidelines for the
                                  establishment of a labour-management
                                  committee on OSH
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development and dissemination of fire
                                  safety self-assessment and remediation
                                  tools
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Development of a tripartite protocol
                                  for death and injury compensation for
                                  workers
                                ----------------------------------------
                                 Establishment of a publicly accessible
                                  database on OSH issues in RMG
                                  factories
                                ----------------------------------------
Political Activities             Redeployment of the RMG workers who
                                  lost jobs as a result of occupational
                                  accidents, rehabilitation of disabled
                                  workers
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Official website, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government
  of Bangladesh


    The government's implementation of NTPA is incomplete.\106\ 
The following examples illustrate some areas where the 
government of Bangladesh has failed to fully implement its 
commitments as outlined in its action plan. The government 
committed to ``upgrade'' a national body responsible for 
inspections of structural integrity, fire, and electrical 
safety in factories, known as the Department of Inspection for 
Factories and Establishments (DIFE) under the Ministry of 
Labour and Employment.\107\ The government has taken steps to 
build DIFE's capacity, including by increasing its annual 
budget from $900 thousand in 2013 and 2014 to $4.93 million in 
FY 2016 to 2017.\108\ DIFE also launched an online system in 
March 2018 that compiles and makes accessible to the public 
labor inspection data, including information on factory license 
applications.\109\ However, there is ongoing concern about 
DIFE's commitment and capacity to inspect RMG factories. The 
European Union Sustainability Compact's 2018 report concluded 
that DIFE was still not fully operational and that it had 
filled only 312 of the authorized 575 safety inspector 
positions as of March 2018. The report also concluded that the 
information on the DIFE website needed to be updated regularly 
and some of the information was outdated.\110\ As of February 
2020, the DIFE website's latest data appears to be from May 
2018.\111\ According to DIFE, it has inspected 1,549 RMG 
factories.\112\ While the Accord and the Alliance were jointly 
responsible for improving safety at approximately 2,300 RMG 
factories, the government reportedly has responsibility for 
safety in 745 RMG factories.\113\ Thus, it is unclear what 
constitutes DIFE's data given the number of factories for which 
the government is responsible falls below 1,000. The website 
also shows that as of 2018, only 107 of 809 factories under the 
government's responsibility have been fully remediated.\114\ As 
of March 2018, the website indicates 422 factories remediated 
more than 50% and 111 factories remediated more than 80% of the 
safety compliance issues identified in their corrective action 
plans.\115\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \106\ U.S. Government Official, Call with Committee Staff, Aug. 28, 
2019.
    \107\ European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh 
Compact: Technical Status Report, at 19 (Sept. 2018).
    \108\ Id. at 20.
    \109\ Id.
    \110\ Id. at 22.
    \111\ Bangladesh Ministry of Labor and Employment, Department of 
Inspection for Factories and Establishments, http://
database.dife.gov.bd/ (last visited Feb. 11, 2020). Notably, as of 
February 25, 2020, the website was not functioning.
    \112\ Id.
    \113\ Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, 
Maquila Solidarity Network & Worker Rights Consortium, Bangladesh 
Government's Safety Inspection Agencies Not Ready to Take Over Accord's 
Work, at 1 (Apr. 2019), https://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/
publications/RCC%20report%204-1--3.pdf; Bangladesh Ministry of Labour 
and Employment, Department of Inspection for Factories and 
Establishments.
    \114\ Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and Employment, Department of 
Inspection for Factories and Establishments.
    \115\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    DIFE's online database also has a ``Complaint Box'' that 
allows workers or employers to submit complaints about 
workplace issues. Unfortunately, this complaints mechanism does 
not guarantee anonymity.\116\ This shortcoming could explain 
why the government of Bangladesh reportedly received only 18 
complaints through the DIFE complaints mechanism between 2013 
and April 2019, whereas the Accord's anonymous reporting 
mechanism received 1,152 complaints during that same 
period.\117\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \116\ Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, 
Maquila Solidarity Network & Worker Rights Consortium, Bangladesh 
Government's Safety Inspection Agencies Not Ready to Take Over Accord's 
Work, at 1 (Apr. 2019).
    \117\ By comparison, the Accord's complaint mechanism provides 
workers a tool to anonymously submit safety and health complaints at 
Accord-covered RMG factories; ensures that workers are able to exercise 
their right to refuse dangerous work; protects workers from 
retaliation; and provides retailers with knowledge of factory-level 
issues that would otherwise go undetected and unreported. The Accord 
ensures the concerns are properly addressed and remediated. Clean 
Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Maquila Solidarity 
Network & Worker Rights Consortium, Bangladesh Government's Safety 
Inspection Agencies Not Ready to Take Over Accord's Work, at 1 (Apr. 
2019).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As part of the NTPA, the government of Bangladesh also 
committed to labor law reforms. In July 2013, the government 
adopted amendments to the 2006 Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) to 
improve occupational health and safety conditions and to boost 
workers' rights, but the latter still falls short of 
international labor standards.\118\ In September 2018, the 
government lowered the membership threshold requirements for 
trade union registration from 30 to 20 percent of the total 
members of the factory workforce.\119\ The 2018 European 
Commission report on Bangladesh labor called for legislative 
changes to the BLA and its implementing rules--particularly 
with respect to lowering the membership threshold requirements 
for unionization--to bring Bangladesh in line with 
international labor standards. It recognized the reduction ``to 
form a union [from 30 percent] to 20 percent of the workforce 
[as] an important first step which needs to be fully applied in 
practice,'' but that the threshold ``should be further lowered 
to comply with international labor standards.''\120\ Labor 
rights advocates, including Solidarity Center, assert the 
threshold is still too high as compared to other 
countries.\121\ While the ILO Convention does not specify a 
number for minimum membership in a trade union for 
registration, it asserts that these requirements be 
``realistically attainable in all relevant circumstances. 
However, minimum membership requirements must not act as a 
deterrent to the establishment of organizations in 
practice.''\122\ Although Bangladesh has adopted standard 
operating procedures for trade union registration, government 
officials have broad discretion to decide on union registration 
applications.\123\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \118\ European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh 
Compact: Technical Status Report, at 7 (Sept. 2018), https://
trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2018/september/tradoc--157426.pdf.
    \119\ ``Government Cuts Requirement for Trade Union Registration,'' 
BDNews24, Sept. 3, 2018.
    \120\ European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh 
Compact: Technical Status Report, at 8 (Sept. 2018).
    \121\ Solidarity Center Representatives, Interview with Committee 
Staff, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, 
Bangladesh, July 2019.
    \122\ The International Labour Organization, Substantive Provisions 
of Labor Legislation: Freedom Association, https://www.ilo.org/legacy/
english/dialogue/ifpdial/llg/noframes/ch2.htm#18.
    \123\ European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh 
Compact: Technical Status Report, at 7; Solidarity Center 
Representative, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate Committee on 
Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As the second of two international initiatives comes to an 
end, responsibility for factory monitoring and remediation will 
shift to the new RMG Sustainability Council and the government. 
International labor rights experts question the government's 
capacity and ability to ensure safety conditions in RMG 
factories under its purview moving forward. Concrete progress 
made by the international initiatives could all be undone if 
the focus on compliance is not maintained.\124\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \124\ Email from U.S. Department of State Official, to Committee 
Staff, Aug. 8, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             SUBCONTRACTING

    An often overlooked element of Bangladesh's garment 
industry is a two layer system whereby larger export-oriented 
factories subcontract garment production to smaller factories 
that operate in the shadows. Given short turnaround times and 
slim profit margins described earlier in the report, 
subcontracting factories play a critical role in helping the 
large factories maintain low production costs and manage the 
ebb and flow of orders. Factories that do subcontracting work 
generally do not have direct relationships with large Western 
buyers.\125\ As a result, unauthorized subcontracted factories 
could be the most dangerous for workers' safety. Tazreen 
Fashions factory made clothes for Walmart as a subcontractor, 
although Walmart argues it did not authorize the factory to do 
this work, emphasizing the point that lack of oversight of 
these facilities poses a serious danger to safety of 
workers.\126\ As noted earlier in the report, the deadly fire 
at Tazreen Fashions in November 2012 resulted in 112 deaths and 
more than 200 injuries.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \125\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 2.
    \126\ Id. at 9.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Associate Director of the Center for Business and Human 
Rights, April Gu, argues that Western brands turn a blind eye 
to subcontracting. ``It's an open secret. I mean, at one 
subcontracting factory we visited, there was a quality control 
inspector on the floor, from the Accord-covered supplier. 
Brands know that's going on; they know there's this two-tier 
system that's developed . . . the fast-fashion business model 
relies on it, because the supply chain has to be flexible 
enough to accommodate large orders that come in at the last 
minute.''\127\ There appears to be no consensus on the number 
of subcontracting factories in Bangladesh. The government has 
not done a census on the industry.\128\ In May 2019, the 
government issued guidelines requiring subcontractor factories 
to have membership in the industry associations (i.e. BGMEA and 
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association), 
minimum wage for workers at subcontracting factories, and 
government approval of factory structural designs.\129\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \127\ Maya Singer, ``Until Western Brands Take a Stand, the Lives 
of Bangladeshi Garment Workers are at Risk,'' Vogue, Dec. 4, 2018.
    \128\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 7.
    \129\ ``BGMEA, BKMEA Membership Must for Garment Subcontracting 
Factories,'' NewAge Business, July 2, 2019.



CHAPTER FOUR: THE KEY ACTORS SHAPING FACTORY SAFETY AND LABOR RIGHTS IN 
                               BANGLADESH

                              ----------                              

    Safety in some of Bangladesh's RMG factories has improved 
due to unprecedented work and collaboration among international 
labor advocates, industry leaders, the brands, and the 
government of Bangladesh. The U.S. government and the European 
Union applied diplomatic and economic pressure towards 
improvements in factory safety and to a lesser extent, labor 
rights. Meanwhile, amid a competitive global RMG market, 
consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the conditions 
under which their clothes are made. The contributions of these 
stakeholders in shaping the Bangladesh RMG landscape are 
discussed in detail in this chapter.

                 THE INTERNATIONAL SAFETY INITIATIVES: 
                      THE ACCORD AND THE ALLIANCE

    Shortly after the Rana Plaza collapse, well-known European 
retailers--such as Inditex, which is the Spanish parent company 
of Mango and Zara, Sweden-based H&M, and the British retail 
chain Tesco--formed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in 
Bangladesh. In addition, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker 
Safety was established, representing companies like Walmart 
Inc., Target Corporation, and The Gap, Inc. Their member brands 
agreed to inspect supplying factories and committed to cut off 
any suppliers that failed to meet safety standards set by them. 
The European-led Accord included 220 brands, and the North 
American-led Alliance included 29 brands.\130\ The Accord's 
steering committee included representatives of major 
international unions and two Bangladeshi labor 
federations.\131\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \130\ Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, ``Alliance Cites 
Progress Toward a Collective Agreement on Worker Safety,'' Apr. 11, 
2018, http://www.bangladeshworkersafety.org/en/476-progress-toward-
collective-agreement (last visited Jan. 27, 2020).
    \131\ Paul Barrett et al., Five Years after Rana Plaza, at 11.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The initiatives have been a groundbreaking beacon of hope 
for Bangladeshi garment workers and have set an international 
standard for how agreements among brands, suppliers, unions and 
workers should be designed and implemented. They produced the 
first legally binding and comprehensive set of standards for 
fire and building safety measures that mandated inspection, 
remediation, and ongoing monitoring of the workplaces. The 
strength of the Accord, in particular, rested on enforcement 
mechanisms under which hundreds of multinational labels, like 
H&M, Esprit, and American Eagle, ``were formally liable for the 
safety conditions of their supplier factories.''\132\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \132\ Michelle Chen, ``6 Years after the Rana Plaza Collapse, Are 
Government Workers Any Safer?'' The Nation, July 15, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

               THE EUROPEAN-LED ACCORD'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS

    In February 2014, the Accord initiated its fire, 
electrical, and inspection program across more than 2,000 RMG 
factories producing for its factory signatories. Five years 
later, 85 percent of the safety hazards identified during 
initial inspections across all Accord factories had been fixed; 
150 Accord factories have fully remediated their factories and 
857 factories have completed more than 90 percent of 
remediation requirements.\133\ The Accord also reports 
significant progress on what it calls common safety issues. For 
instance, 97 percent of its factories removed the lockable or 
collapsible gates found onsite during initial safety 
inspections, allowing for egress from a building in case of a 
fire or other emergency.\134\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \133\ Accord Bangladesh, ``Achievements 2013 Accord,'' July 20, 
2018, https://bangladeshaccord.org/updates/2018/07/20/achievements-
2013-accord.
    \134\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Workers at Accord-covered factories can anonymously submit 
complaints on a range of topics--including structural safety, 
forced overtime, denial of sick leave or maternity benefits, 
and violence and harassment, including gender-based violence 
and unfair termination. The Accord takes action by contacting 
factory owners to rectify the problem and investigating the 
complaint.\135\ If a factory owner refuses to address the 
issue, the Accord informs the retailers sourcing from that 
factory and terminates the business relationship between the 
brand and all of the factory owner's facilities.\136\ The 
Accord indicated to Committee Staff that most workers' issues 
get resolved, and often by workers agreeing to separation from 
work with payment.\137\ The Accord's website reports that as of 
February 25, 2020, 175 factories have been made ineligible for 
business with Accord member buyers for failure to implement 
workplace safety measures.\138\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \135\ Rob Wayss, Executive Director, Accord on Fire and Building 
Safety in Bangladesh, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate Committee 
on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
    \136\ Elena Arengo et al., Calling for Remedy: The Bangladesh 
Accord Complaint Mechanism has Saved Lives and Stopped Retaliation 
across Hundreds of Factories, International Labor Rights Forum, at 10 
(May 2019).
    \137\ Rob Wayss, Executive Director, Accord on Fire and Building 
Safety in Bangladesh, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate Committee 
on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
    \138\ Accord Bangladesh, https://bangladeshaccord.org/factories 
(last visited Jan. 27, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

              THE AMERICAN-LED ALLIANCE'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS

    A parallel international initiative, the Alliance for 
Bangladesh Worker Safety, was formed by North American brands. 
Its mandate concluded in December 2018, and its final report 
shows that over the last five years, the initiative inspected 
714 factories, and completed 93 percent of remediation at its 
factories. The Alliance estimated that its 24-hour confidential 
worker hotline reached more than 1.5 million workers.\139\ The 
report notes that to date, the Alliance has suspended 178 
factories for failing to make adequate remediation 
progress.\140\ The Alliance's final report notes that ``nearly 
1.6 million workers have been trained to protect themselves in 
case of a fire emergency, and the Alliance . . . developed 
local training partners to expand the training beyond Alliance-
affiliated factories [and] 181 worker safety committees have 
been formed, giving workers a seat at the table with management 
in resolving safety issues within their factories.''\141\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \139\ ``Alliance Announces End of Its Tenure,'' New Age Business, 
Dec. 14, 2018.
    \140\ Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, An Industry 
Transformed: Leaving a Legacy of Safety in Bangladesh's Garment Sector, 
(Nov. 2018), http://www.bangladeshworkersafety.org/files/
Alliance%20Fifth%20Annual%20Report%202018.pdf.
    \141\ Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, ``Alliance Fifth 
Annual Report 2018,'' Dec. 11, 2018.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

          THE SUCCESSOR TO THE AMERICAN-LED ALLIANCE, NIRAPON

    When the Alliance shut down its operations in 2018, several 
former Alliance members launched a new self-regulating platform 
known as Nirapon (which roughly translates as `safe place' in 
Bangla). Nirapon is responsible for overseeing safety 
inspection, remediation, and training efforts at the 600 member 
factories from which its members source.\142\ Nirapon's member 
brands include Abercrombie & Fitch, The Gap, Carter's, Costco 
Wholesale, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, Macy's, The Children's 
Place, Walmart, Target, and Kohl's.\143\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \142\ ``Factory Safety: Nirapon Comes in Place of Alliance,'' The 
Daily Star, Apr. 30, 2019.
    \143\ Nirapon, Membership, https://www.nirapon.org/membership/ 
(last visited Jan. 27, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While noting that Nirapon will build on the achievements of 
the Alliance, Nirapon CEO Moushumi Khan made clear that ``the 
Nirapon model is fundamentally different.''\144\ The Alliance 
worked directly with factories on factory remediation; 
Nirapon's model is to conduct independent oversight and 
verification of safety and training compliance and will not 
suspend factories. Also, it will not publicly share safety 
compliance issues, and will keep this information private with 
its members.\145\ The lack of transparency in the Nirapon model 
will make it harder for local and international labor advocates 
to hold brands and suppliers accountable for unsafe factories.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \144\ ``Factory Safety: Nirapon Comes in Place of Alliance,'' The 
Daily Star, Apr. 30, 2019.
    \145\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The BGMEA has reportedly sought to incorporate Nirapon into 
the RMG Sustainability Council structure; however, Nirapon has 
not agreed, to date, to be a part of the organization.\146\ On 
October 22, 2019, after a factory owner sought a petition 
against Nirapon, the courts barred Nirapon from conducting any 
safety monitoring visits in factories for six months. The 
courts also asked Nirapon to justify why it should not be 
ordered to join the RMG Sustainability Council.\147\ Nirapon 
appealed the case; however, in December 2019, the courts upheld 
the earlier decision to impose the six month ban.\148\ Some 
observers view the court case against Nirapon as a possible 
pressure campaign by BGMEA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \146\ Representative of Nirapon, Meeting with Committee Staff, Nov. 
22, 2019.
    \147\ ``High Court Imposes Ban on Nirapon for 6 Months,'' New Age 
Business, Oct. 23, 2019.
    \148\ Simon Glover, ``Nirapon loses appeal against High Court 
ban,'' Ecotextile News, Dec. 3, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

               THE BANGLADESH GARMENT MANUFACTURERS AND 
                     EXPORTERS ASSOCIATION (BGMEA)

    The BGMEA is a national trade association of garment 
manufacturers that wields extraordinary power and political 
influence in the country. While the law does not give the BGMEA 
the authority to serve a regulatory function, in practice the 
BGMEA exerts regulatory authority in certain areas. For 
example, the government entrusts the BGMEA with issuing a 
utilization declaration to factories, which is essentially a 
license required to export materials. The BGMEA also takes part 
in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations.\149\ Its 
members are important drivers of the national economy; in 
addition to their ownership of garment factories, a number of 
them are Members of Parliament, and owners of television 
stations and newspapers, and other commercial enterprises.\150\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \149\ BGMEA, ``BGMEA's Activities,'' Sept. 3, 2019, http://
www.bgmea.com.bd/home/about/BGMEASACTIVITIES.
    \150\ Jim Yardley, ``Garment Trade Wields Power in Bangladesh,'' 
The New York Times, July 24, 2013.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The BGMEA has a clear incentive to ensure building safety 
to avoid attracting negative international attention to the RMG 
industry again. While the garment industry has turned 
Bangladesh into the second largest exporter of RMG in the 
world, trailing only China, there are other countries--such as 
Vietnam--that are strong contenders for the number two 
spot.\151\ The RMG sector produced over 80 percent of 
Bangladesh's exports and contributed to 11.1 percent of the GDP 
in fiscal year 2017-2018.\152\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \151\ Ibrahim Hossain Ovi, ``RMG Global Market Share, Bangladesh 
Loses as Vietnam Gains,'' Dhaka Tribune, Aug. 4, 2019.
    \152\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Current BGMEA President Rubana Huq was elected in April 
2019. She is the managing director of Mohammadi Group, a 
conglomerate that owns multiple factories supplying brands like 
H&M and Primark.\153\ Huq made it an early priority of her 
presidency to work with the government of Bangladesh, global 
brands, and the Accord to establish the Ready-Made Garment 
Sustainability Council, a new locally-led safety initiative 
that will take over the Accord's operations. Huq stated during 
her election speech that Bangladesh's RMG industry's failure to 
create its own regulatory body was a huge mistake, and that in 
her new capacity she intended to create a regulatory agency to 
supervise and monitor the industry.\154\ Huq has reached that 
goal with the creation of the RMG Sustainability Council.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \153\ Anuradha Nagaraj, ``First Female Boss Vows to Shake up 
Bangladesh's Fashion Factories,'' Reuters, Apr. 9, 2019.
    \154\ Satarupa Barua, ``First Female President of Bangladesh 
Garment Group Eyes Advances,'' Voice of America, May 21, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                     THE RMG SUSTAINABILITY COUNCIL

    In April 2018, the Bangladeshi High Court ruled the 
government could not extend the Accord's tenure following a 
writ petition filed by a supplier accusing the Accord of 
wrongdoing.\155\ Labor activists believe the courts pursued 
action against the Accord under pressure from the BGMEA.\156\ 
In May 2018, the High Court in Bangladesh ordered the Accord to 
cease operations.\157\ The Accord appealed this decision, and 
the Supreme Court eventually held a hearing on the matter one 
year later in May 2019.\158\ Before the hearing date, the 
Accord and the BGMEA developed a transition plan that they 
submitted to the court. The court decided the Accord could 
continue operations for approximately 281 days in order to 
transition to a new safety entity called the RMG Sustainability 
Council.\159\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \155\ The writ asserted that the Accord acted improperly after its 
inspectors found the remediation at the owners' factories insufficient 
and Accord retailers broke their relationship with the supplier. 
Refayet Ullah Mirdha, ``Accord's Extension Runs into Trouble,'' The 
Daily Star, May 17, 2018.
    \156\ Union leaders, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \157\ Refayet Ullah Mirdha, ``Accord's Extension Runs into 
Trouble,'' The Daily Star, May 17, 2018.
    \158\ Weixin Zha, ``Uncertainty Lingers as Bangladesh Accord and 
Government Fail to Reach Agreement,'' Fashion United, Feb. 18, 2019; 
``Bangladesh Factory Safety Monitors Get Court Extension,'' France24, 
May 19, 2019.
    \159\ ``Bangladesh Factory Safety Monitors Get Court Extension,'' 
France24, May 19, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In January 2020, the Accord, the BGMEA, and the Bangladesh 
Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association entered into 
an agreement, which commits the three parties to ``initiate a 
time bound transition process in which all major functions of 
the Accord office in Bangladesh will transition before 31st of 
May 2020 into the national initiative RSC [RMG Sustainability 
Council].''\160\ The RMG Sustainability Council is a private 
initiative and separate from, but complementary to, the 
government's regulatory powers and bodies.\161\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \160\ Transition Agreement between Accord on Fire and Building 
Safety in Bangladesh and BGMEA/BKMEA, (Jan. 14, 2020), http://
bgmea.com.bd/bgmea/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Accord-BGMEA-RSC.pdf.
    \161\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The RMG Sustainability Council is to be governed by a Board 
of Directors that includes an equal number of representatives 
from the industry, brands, and trade unions.\162\ According to 
the agreement, the new entity will retain all safety and health 
inspections, and remediation, training, and complaints handling 
functions maintained by the Accord.\163\ The credibility of the 
institution will be determined by a number of factors, 
including the true balance of power on the Board of 
Directors.\164\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \162\ Id.
    \163\ Id.
    \164\  International Labor Rights Advocates, Interview with 
Committee Staff, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to 
Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some notable elements of the agreement require the RMG 
Sustainability Council to retain the Accord's practice of full 
public disclosure of inspection results and remediation 
activities; to maintain the Accord's independent complaints 
mechanism; to share data with the Accord Foundation in 
Amsterdam, but the terms of access to RMG Sustainability 
Council data will be specified at a later date; and to appoint 
a Chief Safety Officer (i.e. inspector) retaining the 
independence, authorities, autonomy, and reporting requirements 
as practiced by the Accord.\165\ According to the agreement, 
the RMG Sustainability Council's safety inspectors must be 
credible and independent and have the ability to recommend that 
non-compliant factories be restricted from selling to apparel 
brands.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \165\ Transition Agreement between Accord on Fire and Building 
Safety in Bangladesh and BGMEA/BKMEA, (Jan. 14, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Labor advocates assert that ``[w]hile many important 
details about the future Accord mechanism remain to be decided, 
there are concerns about the [RMG Sustainability Council] 
because of the brands and BGMEA's potential influence over the 
complaints process, and their ability to self-regulate.''\166\ 
The notion that BGMEA would ultimately police itself in an 
industry from which it profits is questionable. As one labor 
expert put it, ``the BGMEA cannot be left to cut its own 
chicken.''\167\ For the RMG Sustainability Council to prove 
effective, workers' representatives must have a comparable 
level of voting power to the BGMEA and brands on the RMG 
Sustainability Council Board of Directors.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \166\ Email from International Labor Rights Advocate, to Committee 
Staff, Nov. 15, 2019.
    \167\ International Labor Rights Advocate, Interview with Committee 
Staff, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, 
Bangladesh, July 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Accord's effectiveness also derives from its ability to 
compel factories to be compliant with safety standards. The 
Accord `escalation protocol' holds noncompliant factories 
accountable because if factory owners do not comply, the Accord 
will terminate the factory's business relationship with the 
buyer.\168\ BGMEA officials did not indicate in conversations 
with Committee Staff their intent to retain this protocol, and 
instead referred to the BGMEA's power to withdraw a non-
compliant factory's utilization declaration.\169\ The BGMEA 
argues that this escalation tool is stronger given that without 
a utilization declaration, non-compliant factories cannot 
export to any destination country, including Turkey and Russia, 
as opposed to only being blocked from Western countries where 
most Accord signatory brands are based.\170\ Revoking 
utilization declarations appears to be a stronger tool for 
holding noncompliant factories accountable if the BGMEA 
enforces it when any factory fails to meet safety standards.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \168\ The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, 
``Ineligible Suppliers for Business with Accord brands,'' Jan. 5, 2018, 
https://bangladeshaccord.org/2018/08/22/ineligible-suppliers/.
    \169\ BGMEA Representative, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \170\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The uncertain fate of the Accord after the past year has 
led to both employers and brands delaying repairs. Life-
threatening hazards remain uncorrected in some factories 
covered by the Accord, as a result.\171\ It will be critically 
important for these Accord-covered factories to complete 
outstanding remediation before handover to the RMG 
Sustainability Council.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \171\ Email from International Labor Rights Forum Representative, 
to Committee Staff, Nov. 20, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Bangladeshi labor activist Kalpona Akter asserts that the 
Accord's biggest achievement is the drop in severe, fatal 
factory accidents: ``[After] experiencing these hundreds and 
thousands of workers dying in the factory collapses, it's a 
phenomenal change, and it should get recognition, and it should 
be continued.''\172\ Fellow labor union leader Nazma Akter 
emphasized that ``[t]he Accord has saved our industry, our 
country.''\173\ RMG workers and labor activists fear that the 
departure of the Accord will have dire consequences for 
workplace safety and labor rights. The government has a 
responsibility to ensure a comprehensive and credible 
transition to ensure the Accord's progress in improving factory 
safety standards is not lost.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \172\ Michelle Chen, ``6 Years after the Rana Plaza Collapse, Are 
Garment Workers Any Safer,'' The Nation, July 15, 2019.
    \173\ Union Leader Nazma Akter, Interview with Committee Staff, 
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, 
July 2019.



  CHAPTER FIVE: THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPEAN UNION RESPONSE TO THE 
               TAZREEN FASHIONS AND RANA PLAZA TRAGEDIES

                              ----------                              


                             U.S. RESPONSE

    Following the Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza tragedies, 
the United States suspended Bangladesh's trade benefits under 
the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in June 2013, in 
response to the government of Bangladesh's failure to recognize 
RMG factory workers' internationally recognized labor 
rights.\174\ The United States subsequently negotiated a labor 
action plan with the government that, if implemented, would 
have provided a basis for reinstatement of GSP trade benefits. 
To date, the United States has not reinstated GSP trade 
benefits due to lack of sufficient progress in the plan's 
implementation, despite assertions by the government of 
Bangladesh to the contrary. The original intent of the action 
plan was that the government of Bangladesh would implement it 
within a reasonable period of time; however, nearly seven years 
later it has not been fully implemented. In addition, new 
problems--particularly abuse of workers and increased 
violations of workers' rights--have arisen that make the action 
plan largely outdated.\175\ Given the overall deterioration of 
the labor environment in Bangladesh, the United States should 
update the labor action plan to reflect these new challenges in 
Bangladesh's RMG sector.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \174\ Press Release, Office of the United States Trade 
Representative, the Department of Labor & the Department of State, 
Statement by the U.S. Government on Labor Rights and Factory Safety in 
Bangladesh, July 19, 2013, https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/
press-office/press-releases/2013/july/usg-statement-labor-rights-
factory-safety.
    \175\ U.S. Government Official, Meeting with Committee Staff, Oct. 
3, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

             U.S. ASSISTANCE FOR INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS

    In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor deployed a labor 
attache to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka to manage the Bangladesh 
labor rights portfolio. The creation of this senior position 
demonstrated the U.S. commitment to worker safety and labor 
rights in Bangladesh. The labor attache, who concluded her 
assignment in 2016, played a senior role in elevating the issue 
in the bilateral relationship and provided some measure of 
accountability. After almost three years, in September 2019, 
Embassy Dhaka hired a labor analyst to monitor the labor 
situation in Bangladesh.\176\ The Obama administration had 
appointed a Special Envoy for International Labor Rights, who 
led the State Department's global efforts to advance labor 
rights. The Trump administration has left the post unfilled, 
which reflects the lack of priority it places on international 
labor rights.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \176\ Email from State Department Official, to Committee Staff, 
Jan. 28, 2020.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department of Labor, the United States Agency for 
International Development, and the Department of State's 
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor bureau have expended, to 
date, at least $23.2 million on labor rights programs in 
Bangladesh since 2011.\177\ The Trump administration has 
consistently sought to decrease labor-related programming 
worldwide, consistent with its broader efforts to shrink 
foreign aid, and continues to seek reduced funding for the 
Department of Labor's Bureau of International Affairs--an 
office that helps combat poor working conditions and organize 
labor unions around the world. For example, for Fiscal Year 
(FY) 2019, President Trump requested $18.5 million for the 
Department of Labor's Bureau of International Affairs global 
programs, a sharp decrease from the bureau's allotted $86.1 
million in 2017.\178\ Despite the administration's efforts to 
significantly reduce global labor programs, the Department of 
Labor's budget operating plan shows $96.1 million went toward 
these programs in FY 2020. However, President Trump's FY 2021 
request again seeks to slash this number to $18.6 million.\179\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \177\ Email from USAID Official, to Committee Staff, Feb. 2, 2020.
    \178\ U.S. Department of Labor, FY 2019 Department of Labor Budget 
in Brief, at 42, https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/general/budget/
2019/FY2019BIB.pdf.
    \179\ Id. at 47.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The United States also has a longstanding history of 
providing support to the ILO. The State Department's 
Congressional Budget Justification for FY 2021 shows actual 
assistance to the ILO in FY 2019 to be $84.5 million instead of 
the Trump administration's requested $42.5 million, and 
estimates that FY 2020 will be $86.4 million. However, the 
Trump administration has requested again to cut this assistance 
by almost half, down to $42.1 million, in its FY 2021 
request.\180\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \180\ U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification: 
Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Feb. 10, 
2020, at 41, https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FY-2021-
CBJ-Final.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Congress, however, has denied these requested funding cuts 
and maintained resources for international labor programming 
abroad through the appropriations process. Since the Rana Plaza 
tragedy, from FY 2014 through 2019, Congress has earmarked a 
total of $20 million for labor rights in Bangladesh.\181\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \181\ Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, Pub. L. No. 113-76, 
Explanatory Statement, 9 Cong. Record 160 at H1165; Consolidated and 
Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, Pub. L. No. 113-235, 
Explanatory Statement, 151 Cong. Record 160 at H9952; Consolidated 
Appropriations Act of 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-113, Explanatory Statement, 
H. Cmte. Print Bk. 2 at 1632; Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, 
Pub. L. No. 115-31, Explanatory Statement, 76 Cong. Record 163 at 
H4055; Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-141, 
Explanatory Statement, H. Cmte. Print Bk. 2 at 1800; Consolidated 
Appropriations Act of 2019, Pub. L. No. 116-6, H. Rept. 116-9 at 838.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       EU SUSTAINABILITY COMPACT

    The United States joined the European Union (EU) 
Sustainability Compact in 2013, which is a tripartite agreement 
between the EU, the government of Bangladesh, and the ILO. The 
Sustainability Compact's goals are broadly consistent with the 
U.S. 16-point labor action plan, as is its assessment of the 
government's lack of progress.\182\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \182\ Press Release, Office of the United States Trade 
Representative, the Department of Labor & the Department of State, 
Statement by the U.S. Government on Labor Rights and Factory Safety in 
Bangladesh, July 19, 2013, https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/
press-office/press-releases/2013/july/usg-statement-labor-rights-
factory-safety; European Commission, Implementation of the Bangladesh 
Compact: Technical Status Report, (Sept. 2018).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The impact of foreign assistance on promoting labor rights 
is not only measured by the dollars spent or the number of 
unions registered--but also by the change in the culture around 
labor rights, whereby authorities and factory owners respect 
freedoms of association and collective bargaining. Given the 
lack of political will to protect and advance labor rights and 
ensure accountability for abuse of workers in Bangladesh, U.S. 
assistance and bilateral diplomatic engagement with Bangladesh 
must consistently prioritize these issues.

             THE BRANDS' RESPONSE TO THE TAZREEN FASHIONS 
                        AND RANA PLAZA TRAGEDIES

    Apparel brands and retailers have an important role to play 
in ensuring protection of labor rights and safe conditions in 
factories from which they directly and indirectly source. 
However, despite the fact that many brands joined the Accord 
and the Alliance, gaps in worker safety and respect for worker 
rights persist. In fact, American brands have recently been 
tied to garment factories that appear unsafe. An October 2019 
Wall Street Journal (WSJ) investigation traced a shirt that a 
third-party seller listed on Amazon for $4.99 to a factory in 
Chittagong ``that has no fire alarms and where doors are of a 
type managers can lock and keep workers in.''\183\ The WSJ 
found ``other apparel on Amazon made in Bangladeshi factories 
whose owners have refused to fix safety problems identified by 
two safety-monitoring groups [the Alliance and the Accord], 
such as crumbling buildings, broken alarms, and missing 
sprinklers and fire barriers.''\184\ The WSJ also found 
shipping records that tied Bangladeshi factories that had been 
banned under the international safety initiatives to Walmart 
and its online marketplace Walmart.com, as well as other 
American retailers including Target, Sears, and Kmart. Some 
items from these banned factories were reportedly sold directly 
by Walmart or by third parties on Walmart's online 
marketplace.\185\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \183\ Justin Scheck et al., ``Amazon Sells Clothes from Factories 
Other Retailers Blacklist,'' The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 23, 2019.
    \184\ Id.
    \185\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In response to the WSJ report, an Amazon spokesperson said 
``Amazon inspects factories that supply its own brands to 
ensure they are in line with international safety standards 
similar to those of the safety-monitoring groups. . . . Amazon 
doesn't inspect factories making clothing that it buys from 
wholesalers or that comes from third-party sellers. Instead it 
expects those wholesalers and sellers to adhere to the same 
safety standards.''\186\ A Walmart spokesperson indicated they 
are reviewing items that Walmart is directly selling and in 
talks with their suppliers.\187\ Target removed at least one 
listing after the WSJ article was published but declined to 
comment, according to the WSJ. Sears and Kmart are reportedly 
importing from banned factories but also did not respond to 
questions about their sourcing policies.\188\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \186\ Id.
    \187\ Id.
    \188\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       BRAND PURCHASING PRACTICES

    In conversations with Committee Staff, the one issue that 
garment workers, union leaders, labor rights advocates, and 
Bangladeshi officials could all agree on was that brands need 
to increase their purchasing prices and improve their 
purchasing practices.\189\ While some global brands insist that 
suppliers ensure labor rights and safe work environments, their 
purchasing practices often incentivize the opposite behavior. 
Low purchase prices, demands for fast turnaround, unfair 
penalties, and poor forecasting affect the suppliers' bottom 
line and often squeeze suppliers financially, driving them to 
cut corners in ways that exacerbate unsafe conditions and 
workplace abuses.\190\ For example, the pressure to 
simultaneously lower costs while increasing speed and delivery 
time results in factory managers insisting on long hours for 
workers.\191\ Countries with abundant cheap labor, such as 
Bangladesh, are unfortunately well-placed to meet these 
demands.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \189\ Union Leaders, Interview with Committee Staff, Senate 
Committee on Foreign Relations Staff Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 
2019.
    \190\ Human Rights Watch, Paying for a Bus Ticket and Expecting to 
Fly, at 31 (Apr. 2019).
    \191\ See, e.g., id, at 4.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Brands generally require their RMG supplier factories to 
respect their codes of conduct to enter a business 
relationship, but rarely factor compliance with those codes 
into what they pay the suppliers.\192\ To date, most brands 
have not prioritized paying higher prices to suppliers to help 
compensate for increased costs, including wage increases.\193\ 
However, some have participated in efforts such as the Action, 
Collaboration, and Transformation (commonly known as ACT) 
initiative, which seeks to address the issue of living wage in 
the garment supply chain; the New York University Stern Center 
for Business and Human Rights purchasing practices initiative, 
which seeks to develop a series of evidence-based indicators 
and benchmarks for best practices by examining the 
interlinkages between company purchasing practices and factory-
level outcomes for workers; and the Better Buying initiative, 
which offers information and analysis about good purchasing 
practices. Primary responsibility for abusive and unsafe 
workplace conditions lies with factory owners; however, if 
brands are committed to clean supply chains, they need to 
ensure that their own business practices do not increase the 
risk of abuse and safety hazards. Steps could include improving 
purchasing practices, avoiding unfair penalties imposed on 
suppliers, and increasing how much they pay suppliers for 
goods.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \192\ Id. at 15.
    \193\ Id. at 15-18.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In addition, as mentioned earlier, the ILO Governing Body 
of the International Labour Office, composed of governments, 
workers, and employers will decide in the coming months whether 
to establish a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to examine 
complaints against the government of Bangladesh for violating 
ILO conventions, including on freedom of association and 
collective bargaining.\194\ Brands will have an opportunity to 
demonstrate their commitment to safety of workers and 
protection of labor rights by supporting the establishment of 
the COI.\195\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \194\ International Labor Rights Advocate, Phone Call with 
Committee Staff, Sept. 27, 2019.
    \195\ Email from International Labor Rights Advocate, to Committee 
Staff, Oct. 7, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                               CONSUMERS

    Shopna, the Dhaka-based garment worker referred to in the 
Executive Summary, said in June 2019 that, ``It makes me happy 
that [consumers] are wearing something that I made. But I want 
to let them know that this is more than a piece of cloth. This 
piece of cloth is bathed in my blood, sweat and dignity. I've 
sacrificed all of that to be able to make a pair of pants that 
you will wear and feel comfortable.''\196\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \196\ ActionAid, ``80 Percent of Garment Workers in Bangladesh Have 
Experienced or Witnessed Sexual Violence and Harassment at Work,'' June 
10, 2019.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    American consumers care about how their clothes are being 
made, and are increasingly rejecting clothing stained with the 
blood of factory workers. A 2018 study known as the Conscious 
Consumer Spending Index by marketing agency Good.Must.Grow. 
found that 32 percent of Americans actively boycotted products 
and services within the past year that were not socially 
responsible, a record high.\197\ According to the same poll, a 
majority of Americans said that they would not buy a brand that 
does not pay workers a fair living wage.\198\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \197\ Good.Must.Grow., ``Politics, Violence, and Price Tags 
Creating Drag on Social Responsibility, According to Sixth Annual 
Conscious Consumer Spending Index,'' Dec. 13, 2018, https://
goodmustgrow.com/cms/resources/ccsi/ccsindexpressrelease2018.pdf.
    \198\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Clean Clothes Campaign, a global alliance dedicated to 
improving working conditions, and the Changing Markets 
Foundation, an organization focused on increasing the market 
share of sustainable products, commissioned a survey (7,701 
interviews) in November 2018, which showed that 72 percent of 
respondents from the UK, the United States, France, Germany, 
Italy, Poland and Spain believe clothing brands should be held 
responsible for what happens during the manufacturing 
process.\199\ Another 81 percent of respondents are concerned 
about the working conditions of the employees.\200\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \199\ Ipsos MORI, ``Sustainable Fashion Survey: Prepared for 
Changing Markets Foundation,'' Nov. 2018.
    \200\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This combination of committed organizations and consumer 
opinion demonstrates that Americans care about how their 
clothes are being produced and demand more information on 
working conditions in fashion supply chains. Pressuring the 
government of Bangladesh to ensure it improves safety 
conditions and workers' rights is in the long-term interest of 
businesses from a cost and reputation perspective.

                               CONCLUSION

    The government of Bangladesh must prioritize respect for 
the rights of Bangladeshi workers, and their protection from 
unsafe conditions, above economic growth, particularly amid 
rising global concern among consumers about the conditions 
under which their clothes are made. Bangladesh cannot withstand 
the daily tragedies faced by RMG workers subject to abuse and 
sexual exploitation. While corporate international responses 
have helped to considerably improve the safety culture around 
garment factories, only Bangladesh can change its attitude 
towards freedom of association and protecting its garment 
workers from abuse. These workers fuel Bangladesh's economy. It 
behooves the government to take bold action against those who 
abuse them.
    Nearly seven years after Rana Plaza, safety improvements in 
the sector are real, but require continued commitment to be 
sustained. The responsibility for safety in Bangladesh's 
factories will soon fully shift to the government and the RMG 
Sustainability Council. The onus is on the government of 
Bangladesh and industry leaders to create a culture that not 
only ensures safe factory buildings, but also safe workers. A 
``Bangladeshi-led'' effort is not limited to the government or 
BGMEA--it must also provide space for Bangladeshi workers and 
labor unions to defend their rights and protect themselves from 
abuse while helping build a stronger national economy. Only 
then will ``Made in Bangladesh'' become a true label of pride 
for all the people of Bangladesh.



                      FULL LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS

                              ----------                              


                    FOR THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of 
        Peaceful Assembly and of Association should:
    Immediately launch an investigation into allegations of 
        widespread abuse--including gender-based violence--of 
        RMG workers in Bangladesh.

    Conduct a country visit to Bangladesh focused on workers' 
        rights to associate, join a union, conduct union 
        activities, and be free from retaliation, such as 
        retaliatory firings and false criminal charges.



The International Labour Organization (ILO) should:
    Launch a Commission of Inquiry on Bangladesh in response to 
        alleged violations of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of 
        Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 
        and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.

    Focus technical assistance on increasing the number of 
        genuine unions while building union leaders' capacity 
        to organize and collectively bargain.

    Consider establishing a multi-stakeholder task force, 
        organized with the government of Bangladesh and local 
        industry, and comprised of global brands and 
        international financial and development institutions. 
        The mandate of this task force would be to adopt a 
        shared responsibility model that would allow enhanced 
        coordination between key stakeholders (governments, 
        brands, and workers representatives) and facilitate 
        providing the financial resources necessary to make 
        garment industry factories safer and to enhance the 
        rights of workers.

                    FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT


The U.S. Government should:
    Support, in its capacity as a member of the ILO's Governing 
        Body of the International Labour Office, the 
        establishment of an ILO Commission of Inquiry on 
        Bangladesh in response to violations of the ILO 
        Conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of 
        the Right to Organise, and Right to Organise and 
        Collective Bargaining. Urge other members of the ILO 
        governing body to support the inquiry.

    Maintain the suspension of U.S. Generalized System of 
        Preferences (GSP) trade benefits for the government of 
        Bangladesh until it fully implements the U.S. 16-point 
        labor action plan (formerly known as the GSP Action 
        Plan).

    Update the U.S. 16-point labor action plan to reflect the 
        ongoing challenges in Bangladesh's RMG sector--
        including abuse of workers and increased violations of 
        workers' rights.

    Consider imposing visa bans against current and former 
        officials as well as factory owners who engage in abuse 
        of RMG workers and use violence and intimidation to 
        dissuade labor organizing efforts.

    Continue ongoing U.S. programs promoting labor rights in 
        Bangladesh, and increase funding for them going 
        forward.

    Deploy a senior Department of Labor official to serve as 
        labor attache at U.S. Embassy Dhaka in order to ensure 
        consistent high-level attention, and engagement on, 
        factory safety concerns and labor rights and 
        protections.

    Carry out, under the auspices of the Government 
        Accountability Office, an analysis of the status of 
        labor rights across the globe to inform the U.S. 
        government's policy and programming.

    Provide U.S. funding for a safer garment industry in 
        Bangladesh as part of a multi-stakeholder task force or 
        other shared responsibility initiative.

      FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF BANGLADESH AND THE BANGLADESH GARMENT 
            MANUFACTURERS AND EXPORTERS ASSOCIATION (BGMEA)


The Government of Bangladesh should:
    Investigate and prosecute factory owners and management 
        that have been implicated in violating internationally 
        recognized labor rights standards and domestic labor 
        laws, including by engaging in anti-union activity and 
        committing abuse against workers.

    Expeditiously complete pending investigations of unfair 
        labor practices. Dedicate funding for the Ministry of 
        Labour and Employment to hire lawyers to properly 
        prosecute these cases in the labor court.

    Properly compensate workers who were victims of false 
        criminal cases filed by factory management and police.

    Protect unions and their members from anti-union 
        discrimination and reprisal. Any alleged worker 
        misconduct or offense related to industrial issues 
        should be filed in labor courts and/or with the 
        Ministry of Labour and Employment or Department of 
        Inspections for Factories and Establishments (DIFE). No 
        such case should be filed or accepted in criminal 
        courts or police stations.

    Publicly declare that the BGMEA will not be allowed to 
        self-regulate in the RMG industry. Transfer authority 
        to issue ``utilization declarations''--which is 
        essentially a license to export--from the BGMEA to the 
        Ministry of Labour and Employment. Expand the 
        utilization declarations requirements to include 
        standards on factory safety and labor rights.

    Further revise the country's 2006 labor law to conform with 
        international labor standards, including reducing 
        arbitrary administrative burdens for trade union 
        registration and further lowering the threshold for 
        membership to start a union. Consult civil society and 
        independent trade unions in reforms.

    Expeditiously register unions that meet administrative 
        requirements and transparently provide information to 
        applicants throughout the process.

    Reduce discretion in processing union registration 
        applications by developing clear and concrete standards 
        for approval and denial.

    Ensure the DIFE public database on factory safety and 
        remediation efforts has complete and up-to-date 
        information. Ensure full disclosure of RMG employment 
        database systems--including the BGMEA's--for proper 
        investigation into potential misuse against workers.

    Ensure RMG workers have access to an anonymous complaints 
        hotline.



BGMEA should:
    Ensure that the workers' representatives have power equal 
        to the BGMEA and participating brands on the RMG 
        Sustainability Council Board of Directors.

    Ensure any complaints mechanism, including the complaints 
        hotline managed by the RMG Sustainability Council, 
        maintains the anonymity of the individual filing a 
        complaint.

    Ensure RMG Sustainability Council inspectors are 
        independent and free of influence from factory owners.

    Hold factory owners and management accountable for credible 
        allegations of worker abuse and violations of labor 
        rights.

                  FOR THE APPAREL BRANDS AND RETAILERS


Apparel Brands and Retailers sourcing from Bangladesh should:
    Prioritize labor rights in contracts and in interactions 
        with management of supplying factories and ensure that 
        all factories involved in the supply chain respect 
        labor rights, in particular the rights to freedom of 
        association and collective bargaining.

    Ensure that pricing and sourcing contracts with RMG 
        factories incorporate cost of labor and safety 
        compliance--including cost of the minimum wage 
        increase, overtime payments, and all legal benefits--to 
        eliminate any incentive for unsafe conditions and 
        worker abuse.

    Ensure that local initiatives maintain the high standards 
        established by the international factory safety 
        initiatives, including breaking contracts with 
        suppliers that are non-compliant with safety and labor 
        rights standards.

    Include freedom of association and protection against anti-
        union discrimination in factory audit and inspection 
        regimes.

    Collectively develop and implement a policy of zero-
        tolerance on violence and harassment, and for suppliers 
        who consistently engage in anti-union activity.

    Support the establishment of an ILO Commission of Inquiry 
        in Bangladesh.

    Ensure that the RMG Sustainability Council and Nirapon 
        maintain the high standards established by the Accord 
        and the Alliance respectively.