A nationwide tour by United Students Against Sweatshops, featuring two workers from Bangladesh, made its final stop in Greensboro last night. At a public meeting held at Genesis Baptist Church, workers and supporters called on Greensboro-based VF Corporation to sign a legally binding Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh after a tragic building collapse killed more than 1,000 people.
The campaign wants larger apparel companies that subcontract to factories abroad to sign the accords. Several US-based companies, including American Eagle and Fruit of the Loom have signed on, but USAS International Campaigns Coordinator Garrett Strain said VF Corp is resistant. The company offered a non-binding, company-controlled agreement put forward alongside GAP and Walmart, Strain said. A spokesperson for VF could not immediately be reached.
“In 2010, 29 garment workers burned alive at a factory called That’s It Sportswear, while producing apparel for VF Corporation,” a press release from the campaign stated, adding that a growing number of universities including Duke now require that apparel licensees sign the Bangladesh safety accord.
United Students Against Sweatshops has held organizing meetings with students at NC A&T University and UNCG to stir up interest in a similar campus campaign. Students from Bennett and Elon colleges were also present at the meeting yesterday.
Attendees heard from Aklima Khanam, a survivor of the gigantic Rana Plaza building collapse and Aleya Akter, the general secretary of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation. State Rep. Pricey Harrison (Guilford-D), who is running for reelection, spoke on a panel with several other locals at the meeting.