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USW Lauds Obama's Action to Limit Bangladesh Access to U.S. Markets

Serious Shortcomings in Workers' Rights and Safety Standards Cited

PITTSBURGH, June 27, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) said today that it welcomes President Obama's decision to suspend Bangladesh's preferential access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in response to "serious shortcomings in worker rights and workplace safety standards in Bangladesh." 

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"The Administration's action sends a strong message to the Bangladeshi government and employers that there will be no business as usual until Bangladeshi workers can exercise their fundamental rights to organize and bargain collectively, workers receive living wages, and fire and building safety standards are established and enforced," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza building collapse and the Tazreen Fashion fire that have killed and maimed thousands of Bangladeshi workers must never again occur.

"The GSP program isn't a right, it's a benefit provided by U.S. law. That right comes with responsibilities – legal responsibilities – and Bangladesh has failed to live up to its end of the bargain. Importing companies have opposed the retraction of GSP benefits but they have little concern about profiting at the expense of workers in Bangladesh. Those workers need our support to pressure their government and their industry to help make their lives better and safer. Profiting from the misery and death of workers in other parts of the globe must never be an American value. The Obama administration must follow this important action with continued leadership to address the violations of worker rights in Bangladesh."

The USW says that the Obama administration should first demand that Bangladesh immediately enact labor legislation that removes all of the current restrictions on labor union registration and collective bargaining that deny workers in the apparel industry the right to form unions.

Second, while technical assistance to the Bangladeshi government is important, assistance must also be directed to helping the 4.5 million workers in the apparel industry, and workers in other industries, exercise their right to organize. Without effective workplace representation, no amount of government or corporate monitoring will protect workers' lives.

Finally, the Administration should publicly endorse the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh negotiated between the global trade union movement and more than 50 apparel brands, and should call on leading U.S. brands such as Gap and Wal-Mart, who have refused to sign the Accord, to do so immediately. 

The USW will join students, unions and community groups in global a day of protest at Gap and Wal-Mart stores on June 29 to demand that these brands that have profited from sweatshop labor in Bangladesh take responsibility for their actions and sign the Accord.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations. For more information go to: www.usw.org

CONTACTS: Tim Waters 412-999-3587
([email protected])

Ben Davis 202-550-3729
([email protected])

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

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