Walmart: "Not Financially Feasible" To Take Minimal, Legally Required Steps to Save Workers' Lives

by
Abby Zimet

In the wake of last month's fire in a Bangladesh garment factory that killed over 100 workers, Bloomberg has gained access to notes from a 2011 meeting where Walmart officials decided against paying suppliers high enough prices to cover costs of needed safety improvements because they deemed it “not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.” The meeting was attended by more than a dozen retailers, including Gap, Target and JC Penney. Over 300 Bangladeshi garment factory workers have died since 2006. Walmart reported a 9% increase in third-quarter net income, bringing their earnings for that quarter to $3.63 billion. An estimated half of Bangladesh’s garment factories don’t meet legally required work safety standards. At a fire in a nearby warehouse two days after the Tazreen factory fire, workers had to climb down a bamboo pole because they couldn’t get to the stairs; graffiti on a restroom wall there read: “Work here and your life is a living hell.”

“Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories,” they said in the document. “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

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