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Workers Continue To Die In Factories Producing Tommy Hilfiger, Gap And Kohl’s Clothing

Raunak Khosla |
April 1, 2012 | 8:34 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

ABC's Brian Ross confronts Tommy Hilfiger. (ABCNews.com)
ABC's Brian Ross confronts Tommy Hilfiger. (ABCNews.com)

Imagine being caught in a fire with nowhere to escape because the factory you work at has all of its gates padlocked shut. Imagine having no money to feed your three children because your husband was one of the victims.

Hard to imagine? It should be. Making clothes is not supposed to be dangerous, but that is life for these people in Bangladesh, where even the most basic of human rights are virtually sold by the government to big-name multinationals like Tommy Hilfiger for exploitation.

It has been 15 months after the tragic fire in Ashulia, Bangladesh killed 29 people who were making clothes for Tommy Hilfiger, Kohl’s and the Gap. Although international attention has long since died down, fatal incidents continue to occur. In factories producing Tommy Hilfiger apparel, a worker recently died when an elevator cable broke, and two more were crushed by a boiler when it caught fire at a separate factory, where the gates were again found padlocked shut. No legal action seems to be making these companies want to take positive action.

ABC News tried to contact Tommy Hilfiger, the Gap and Kohl's on how they responded to the 2010 disaster, but received no answer. The network then approached Hilfiger backstage at the New York's Fashion Week last month. 

High Fashion, Deadly Factories: ABCNEWS.COM - Tommy Hilfiger agrees to safer factories after ABC News investigation.

What they got from the designer was, “I can tell you that we no longer make clothes in those factories. We pulled out of all of those factories.” 

Hilfiger’s parent company, Phillips-Van Heusen, called ABC the next day to amend their statements. They have since undertaken effective measures to ensure worker safety. 

Scott Nova, the director of the Worker Rights Consortium – an independent labour monitoring organization – told ABC News that the agreement signed by Phillips-Van Heusen, is 'a binding, enforceable agreement under which the participating brands must open up their factories in Bangladesh to public scrutiny and must make these factories safe.'

Based on this agreement, Hilfiger’s brand will have to pay $1 million to devise effective fire safety regulations and fund an independent inspector in every factory where its clothes are manufactured. 

The Gap, however, calls the situation ‘complex’, and is doing its own inspections, the same kind of corporate inspection that found nothing wrong with the factory in Ashulia before the fire.

Kohl’s has reportedly given a donation to a humanitarian relief fund. That fixes things.

What is most frustratingly incomprehensible is why these companies refuse to take this matter seriously. Perhaps they feel that the ignorance of the consumers allows them to do anything they want.

In that case, we need to remember these big-names and what they stand for from now on.


Reach reporter Raunak Khosla here.



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