“Let’s talk ethical”
On April 23rd, 2013, Sohel Rana and the Rana Plaza factory managers stood outside of their garment factory in Dhaka discussing the deep cracks that had appeared along the roof and walls of the seventh floor. After a bit of discussion, they ordered their 3,000+ workers to go home and considered having the building professionally inspected.
But it never was.
The morning of April 24, 2013, many garment workers refused to enter the building for fear of risking their lives. The managers were resistant to such protests, threatening to deduct a month’s pay from each employee that did not go to work that day. The managers, sadly, were under strict deadline pressures from many Western brands who had outsourced their production to Bangladesh. The economic pressure was felt among everybody that day, with the employees eventually surrendering their protests and realizing their need for financial security.
Before 9 a.m. that morning, the building collapsed. Over 3,500 people were inside the building at the time, and throughout the days that followed we learned that 1,134 lives were taken from the tragedy, with many more injured with life-altering disabilities. As common citizens and witnesses struggled to save the lives of the people for nearly four days after the collapse, the tragedy left many emotionally and physically traumatized. Some survivors of the fall had to withstand severe physical torment, including having to amputate their own limbs in order to free themselves of the rubble. The disaster was horrendous on many fronts, and still haunts many people in and out of the region today. It casts a dark shadow on fashion history—the worst garment-related tragedy to date that was highly unfortunate, yet incredibly raw and real. Rana Plaza opened the eyes of many to the inhumane practices behind such a glamorous and artful practice: fashion.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the story is the employee’s decision to work at Rana Plaza in the first place. Many people moved to Dhaka from rural areas of Bangladesh in search of a better life and a chance towards minimal prosperity. Factory employees worked nearly 12-14 hours a day for six days a week, making a grand total of $38 a month to provide for themselves and their families. This was an upgrade. This provided opportunity.
And this has got to change.