August 11, 2014
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY– Unions and religious organizations rallied outside Ralph Lauren Shareholders’ meeting in New York City on August 7th while inside, the AFL-CIO sponsored a shareholder resolution calling on Ralph Lauren to conduct a human rights risk assessment. The AFL-CIO resolution was seconded by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The AFL-CIO sponsored shareholder resolution was presented by Nazma Akter, President, Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation. Akter, who worked at the Tazreen Fashions factory that had a tragic fire in 2012, pushed for Ralph Lauren to explain why it has refused to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Joining this organization would help protect the safety of garment workers who produce Ralph Lauren apparel.
Akter called on Ralph Lauren to conduct a human rights risk assessment.
“It is all the more important because Ralph Lauren—an iconic brand in the world of fashion—sources garments produced by women like me in Bangladesh. Human rights risks for companies doing business in Bangladesh have become a central concern after the tragedy at the Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013. On that fateful day, 1,138 garment workers were killed and 2,515 more were injured.”
Akter continued, “Companies and trade unions came together to create the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. More than 180 apparel companies have signed the Accord, a binding and enforceable agreement that represents a new model in supply chain accountability and risk management… But Ralph Lauren—a company that has always stood for the highest quality—has not joined the Accord… I urge you to improve Ralph Lauren’s reporting on human rights risks wherever the company sources goods, and to take steps to mitigate human rights abuses in Bangladesh by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.”
The Rev. David Schilling, Senior Program Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, spoke at the rally in support of the AFL-CIO resolution and the broader campaign for international human rights for all workers. Rev. Schilling noted that,
“The Accord on Fire and Building Safety is the best solution to help prevent future workplace disasters in Bangladesh and to foster a culture of compliance and respect for international human rights norms. The Accord guarantees that global brands and retailers can source apparel manufactured in factories with adequate health and safety standards and where international labor rights are respected.”