WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released a new Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic Staff report investigating the treatment of garment workers, labor rights, and factory safety in Bangladesh. At an event with AFL-CIO’s President Richard L. Trumka, Menendez discussed the fight for freedom of association and workers’ rights at home and around the world before unveiling the comprehensive report, which comes nearly seven years after the Rana Plaza factory collapse killed more than 1,100 Bangladeshis. The report, titled, “Seven Years After Rana Plaza, Significant Challenges Remain,” assesses the progress made in factory safety, but finds a deteriorating environment for labor rights and abuse of Ready-Made Garment (RMG) factory workers, particularly female workers.
Commissioned by Menendez as a follow-up investigation to Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings (here and here) and report he authored after the Rana Plaza collapse, this new report finds that labor rights in Bangladesh have precipitously declined in recent years, as union organizers contend with pressure on freedoms to associate, organize, and demonstrate. Factory safety conditions have measurably improved in many RMG facilities, due to the joint efforts of internationally-led initiatives, labor unions, industry and government. However, the report also found factory owners themselves are still implicated in sexual harassment and abuse of workers, while the government of Bangladesh has failed to hold any perpetrators accountable.