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Bangladesh Fire Survivor And Labor Advocates Asks US Companies To Compensate Victims

Accompanied by a survivor of the lethal Tarzeen Fashions fire which killed 112 people in Bangladesh in November, 2012, labor rights advocates and unions are campaigning in ten cities across the U.S. for compensation for victims and their families.

At the forefront of the campaign is 24-year-old Bangladeshi garment worker, Sumi Abedin, who escaped the factory fire by jumping from a fourth-floor window.

She and her co-campaigners are asking companies whose goods were made by the factory for some $5 million in compensation.

The nationwide tour is also designed to publicize poor working conditions in Bangladesh textile and garment factories and to urge companies to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, endorsed by unions, workers, and some U.S. companies with brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

“I’m going to America to ask the buyers to compensate the affected workers and to improve safety in the factories,” said Ms. Abedin.

“No one should die while making clothes.”

Owing to an injury to her foot, Ms. Abedin is no longer able to use a pedal-operated sewing machine, and most likely will never be able to work again in a garment factory.

The U.S. cross-country tour will target the homes of executives of clothing manufacturers and corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Walt Disney Company, among others.

A Geneva-based workers’ rights advocate, IndustriALL Global Union, have invited retailers to a meeting to negotiate a compensation package for victims of the fire.  The organization says it represents some 50 million workers in 140 countries.

Financing for the U.S. campaign is being partially provided by individual unions and union coalitions.