Rutgers joins push for safer working conditions in Bangladesh

International workers rights groups are praising a decision by Rutgers University that could help eliminate sweatshops in Bangladesh.

Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university, is the latest of 17 schools requiring manufacturers of its collegiate apparel to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

That accord requires factories to establish workplace safety rules and agree to independent inspections, said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum.

“There’s a binding commitment by global brands so they’re no longer saying, ‘Oh yes, we’ll follow this code of conduct, we’ll do this monitoring,’ but it’s all voluntary,” she said. “So when it gets too hard to fix the factory, we just walk away, which has been the case.”

Rutgers’ action sends a strong message, said Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights.

“At least we know that the workers will be in a safe location when they make these garments for Rutgers and for other universities,” he s aid. “The workers have the right to walk off the job if they think the conditions are unsafe.”

The push for the new safety rules came after a building collapse in Bangladesh last year that killed more than 1,100 apparel workers and injured 2,500 others.

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