Labor Standards in International Supply Chains

Labor Standards in International Supply Chains

Aligning Rights and Incentives

Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi and Jennifer Noveck

Labor Standards in International Supply Chains examines developments in working conditions over the past thirty years. The authors analyze the stakeholders and mechanisms that create challenges and opportunities for improving labor rights around the world, in sectors including apparel, footwear and electronics. Extended examples from China, Honduras, Bangladesh and the United States, as well as new quantitative evidence, illustrate the complex dynamics within and among key groups, including brands, suppliers, governments, workers and consumers.

Chapter 8: Apparel production in Bangladesh: opportunity amidst tragedy?

Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi and Jennifer Noveck

Subjects: politics and public policy, human rights, international politics, social policy and sociology, labour policy

Abstract

Chapter 8 focuses on the case of apparel production and labor rights in Bangladesh. In this chapter, we demonstrate how the existing political equilibrium in Bangladesh has been poor working conditions, including several major factory fires and building collapses that have made headlines worldwide. We focus on the Rana Plaza tragedy and its aftermath as an example of how an exogenous shock, such as a building collapse or a factory fire, can be an important point of leverage for workers and their allies. While such shocks have the potential to shift the existing equilibrium, sustainable change is by no means assured. Even in the case of Bangladesh where significant international media attention was able to, at least temporarily, align end consumers with workers and their allies, the lack of long-term commitment to punishing brands and suppliers who violate workers’ rights by end consumers in combination with a domestic political equilibrium that disadvantages workers is likely to result in a missed opportunity to significantly improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s apparel industry.

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