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Crowley, Pelosi, Hoyer, Levin, House Members Press Bangladesh Government on Worker Safety and Rights in Wake of Deadly Building Collapse

Washington, D.C. – In wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed more than 1,100 people, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus Joe Crowley (D-NY), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Bangladesh, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), and other House Democrats sent a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina strongly urging the Bangladeshi authorities to join in a comprehensive, concrete, and coordinated plan to ensure worker safety and rights in Bangladesh.

“…[W]e believe there is simply no substitute for tough, comprehensive, uncompromising government support for legislation and fully-resourced law enforcement and administrative action… that both empowers workers and prevents more accidents from happening,” write the lawmakers in the letter.

The letter continues, “As Members of Congress deeply concerned with the well-being of the people of Bangladesh, we urge you to put the highest priority on aggressively enacting and enforcing comprehensive reforms that addresses these concerns and join in a broad-based effort to ensure that workers in Bangladesh are assured basic safety and internationally-recognized rights in the workplace.”

In addition to the Rana Plaza disaster, the members point to other recent industrial accidents in Bangladesh, including the deadly Tazreen Fashions garment factory fire in November 2012 and the unresolved killing of labor organizer Aminul Islam, as continued issues of concern.

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The full text of the letter to Prime Minister Hasina is below:

May 15, 2013

Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister, Bangladesh
c/o Embassy of Bangladesh
3510 International Drive, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

Dear Prime Minister Hasina:

As friends of the Bangladeshi people, we strongly urge the Bangladeshi authorities to join in a comprehensive, concrete and coordinated plan to ensure worker safety and secure workers’ rights in Bangladesh.  Only months after the Tazreen fire, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building further underlines the importance of taking such action without delay.

In recent years, a number of us have raised issues directly with the Bangladesh authorities regarding worker safety and rights in Bangladesh.  This includes, among other issues, the unresolved killing of Aminul Islam, fire safety, worker safety, the right to organize and charges against labor rights organizations.

We are aware of the role that the garment industry has played in providing critically-needed employment opportunities for Bangladeshis.  We are also aware that a number of steps have been pledged to address issues pertaining to worker safety and rights.  However, continued tragedies, including the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse, indicate that many workers have not had an effective voice in the workplace enabling them to address concerns with uncompromising owners and/or managers – even when those concerns are a matter of urgent, life-and-death danger.  They also seem to indicate that dangerous conditions exist on a substantial scale in the industry.

We fully understand that there are multiple factors which brought about this tragedy and others like it, and it is critical that all key stakeholders take action.  However, we believe there is simply no substitute for tough, comprehensive, uncompromising government support for legislation and fully-resourced law enforcement and administrative action -- including the right to organize and form unions in the Export Processing Zones -- that both empowers workers and prevents more accidents from happening.

As Members of Congress deeply concerned with the well-being of the people of Bangladesh, we urge you to put the highest priority on aggressively enacting and enforcing comprehensive reforms that addresses these concerns and join in a broad-based effort to ensure that workers in Bangladesh are assured basic safety and internationally-recognized rights in the workplace.

Sincerely,

Joseph Crowley
Nancy Pelosi
Steny H. Hoyer
Sander M. Levin
Adam B. Schiff
Charles B. Rangel
Carolyn B. Maloney
Grace Meng
Frederica S. Wilson
Madeleine Z. Bordallo
Barbara Lee
Allyson Y. Schwartz
Earl Blumenauer
Wm. Lacy Clay
Stephen F. Lynch
George Miller
Ron Kind
Carolyn McCarthy
James P. Moran
Betty McCollum
Keith Ellison
Rush Holt
Chris Van Hollen
Gary C. Peters
Bill Pascrell, Jr.