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Do Now

Should fashion companies like H & M and Zara be responsible for the manufacturing of their clothing even though they don’t own the factories? What should be their role? What is the role of the consumer? What is the role of government?


Last week a garment factory building collapsed outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, leaving over 500 workers dead. Labor organizers argue that this tragedy could easily have been prevented if factory regulations were put in place to ensure safer working conditions. However, the lack of regulations allows fashion companies to pay less money for the manufacturing of their clothing, making it cheaper for people to buy the products in stores. Should the effort to sell clothing at such a low price justify the hiring of garment factories with poor and dangerous working conditions?

What makes clothing so cheap? U.S. fashion companies design their merchandise in the United States and then outsource the labor in countries like Bangladesh where workers are paid very little to sew the garments. According to Elizabeth Cline in her book Over-Dressed factories like these in Bangladesh pump out what she calls “fast fashion,” or clothes made on the cheap by big chains such as H&M, Zara, Esprit, Lee, Wrangler, Nike, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart.

According to Cline, these factories are unregulated. There are power outages six times a day, infrastructure problems, but the labor is so cheap and gives companies a competitive advantage. In China, where 15 million people work in the garment industry, the cost of labor has gone up recently so companies are looking elsewhere to manufacture clothing. But Bangladesh can’t keep up with China’s infrastructure to produce such a high volume of clothing, so they buckle under the pressure and mistakes happen like a building collapse or a large building fire in November.

Manufacturing with inexpensive labor can meet the needs of consumers looking to buy more clothing for less money. And in today’s frenetic Internet driven culture, fashion trends are changing faster than ever, causing retailers to duplicate fashion runway looks almost immediately, providing quick turn arounds for store merchandise. This causes people to buy more. According to Cline, if you go into a Target one week and go back two weeks later, there is all new inventory.

For the consumer, it’s not always easy to connect the conditions of these factories to the labels on one’s clothes. Cline, however, thinks that with this tragedy we may have reached a crossroads in the conversation about fashion and how we can more responsibly consume it.


BBC News video Bangladesh Dhaka building collapse leaves 80 dead – April 24, 2013
At least 80 people have been killed and many more are feared trapped after an eight-storey building collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, government officials say. Frantic efforts are under way to rescue those beneath the debris. At least 200 were injured by the collapse.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

WHYY Fresh Air radio story Ethical Fashion: Is The Tragedy In Bangladesh A Final Straw? – May 2, 2013
A garment factory that manufactures products for international clothing companies collapsed outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, last month, killing more than 400 workers and injuring scores of others. It came on the heels of a fire at another factory in November 2012; that incident killed 112 workers.

KQED Forum segment Fast Fashion, Cheap Clothes and the Bangladesh Disaster – May 6, 2013
The death toll from the collapse of a Bangladesh clothing factory surpassed 600 on Monday, making it the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry. Officials from Walmart, San Francisco-based Gap Inc. and other retailers met in Germany after the collapse to talk about improving safety measures in Bangladesh. We discuss the social costs of cheap clothing.

  • Nick

    If the only thing these companies are doing is paying to use the factory they can’t really be held responsible. They’re going to go by how they can profit the most period. Yes the factories should be held up to much higher standards. I just think the people who own the actual factories should be held more responsible than they companies. Also I don’t think the consumer really has anything to do with it. Sure you can try stop buying clothes from those companies, but I’m willing to bet more companies than just H & M are doing this.

    • I agree i feel it is the factories responsibility to higher there standards not the company that uses them

      • MacKenzie

        I agree. The companies have nothing to do with the quality of the building. The factories should keep the safety procedures up to date want make any necessary repairs that the building may need. They need to keep the safety and well-being of the of their workers in mind.

        • T Ashton

          But they don’t! Thats the problem. They are in another country and we can’t control them unless we storm in and start implementing our safety standards into their foreign factories. Where does the line end? Its not our fault as the consumer, its not the fault of the company, but it is the fault of the factory owner. Why should he change what he is doing and make less money if he can just keep on forcing these people to work in the horrible conditions?
          The companies have everything to do with the quality of the building because they are paying for a product coming from that building. They can move their factory to somewhere else and build it safer and cleaner but they don’t.
          This kind of thinking is just pushing the blame off to someone else. If you think they need to, “keep the safety and well-being of their workers in mind” then do something about it. The original comment says, “Sure you can try stop buying clothes from those companies, but I’m willing to bet more companies than just H & M are doing this.” so you are saying just because you think it won’t solve the problem you are going to do nothing about it but still complain about the condition of the factories. This is hypocritical behavior that i find gross and off putting.
          Please do something about the condition of factories instead of complaining about the condition. I’ll bet you still enjoy those skinny jeans you bought from H & M even though you think the working conditions under which those jeans were made is not acceptable. Please rethink this behavior and as Ghandi says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

          • peef

            dig the ghandi quote

    • Makayla

      I agree with you. I believe the factories are responsible for making better working conditions and such and the company really should be blamed. The factory needs to be held more responsible, but the factory is going off supply and demand and how they can make the most money.

      • David Jenny

        I think H&M should be held responsible along with whoever the buildings architects were. After more than 80 people were found dead and about 200 injured it would not look good if they didn’t take responsibility. Companies should focus as much on their employees then their product. I also really don’t think the consumer really has anything to do with it. They aren’t responsible for keeping the workers in terrible working conditions.

    • Austin

      I dont think that the company is responcible for what happened to the building

  • Stevie Greens

    The collapse of the building was not H & M or Zara’s fault if they didn’t own the factory. They didn’t build the factory so how would it be their fault? If they didn’t have people producing clothes in there another company would realistically. They will probably have to take responsibility though if they don’t want to lose respect and money.

    • ashlee allee

      Your right its not there fault the buliding just went down. Maybe they should have put it up a little better, but they didn’t no that was going to happen.

  • Mr. Malley

    I’m wondering. Let’s say I go to this theme park. When the theme park closes they maintain the grounds. The theme park outsources their ground maintenance to the dark forces of Mordor. While the park is closed Sauron comes to the park with a team of dwarves and hobbits barefoot (of course) and in chains. He whips every single one of those dwarves and hobbits to get them to work faster, doesn’t allow bathroom breaks, and uses a combine to mow grass that from time to time that chops unlucky hobbits who lose their footing into tiny little bits. The roller coasters are literally and figuratively greased with the blood of halflings.

    Am I, as parklover and attendee, culpable for the suffering that results from the inhumane conditions created by this dark lord and his evil conglomerate of economic wickedness?

    • Matti P.

      To an extent somebody would be responsible. Due to the fact that you are using these evil sources. You could take your business else where, lets say have Gandalf come in and use his magic to fix everything and maintain the park. That would make you not responsible for the evil doings Sauron does. Because you would just be standing there watching and letting him work these poor halflings to the extreme. This would make you the inhumane one because you would be using business that is cruel. But then again how are you to change that, because it is somebody else’s business and you can do nothing about it. So overall it is cheaper, but at what cost is the lives of thousands? Would it be easier to have a better, safer business come in and do maintenance or would you rather have a cheap, unsafe company come in and do it while you turn your back to the safety and well being of the workers? The main question is to the corporation, does a human life out weigh the product you would be making cheaply?

      • Mr. Malley

        Well said Matti P. I think that is the question confronting every American consumer. We like cheap goods. We love Walmart and KMart and Target and H&M and shopping online. We love extreme couponing and Deal a Day sites and Groupon.

        Gandalf’s services cost a lot of money. So do his gang of dwarves. (Heck, they only self organize when it involves a quest to right an ancient wrong!)

        The question facing us all is how much more are we willing to pay to ensure that products get made safely and under humane conditions. If you pay $10 for a tee shirt made by a worker in Indonesia in the midst of an 18 hour shift in a crumbling building, would you be willing to pay $15 if it meant that his or her situation would be safer?

        The other hidden cost are American jobs. We have a high unemployment rate. The textile industry, once housed in America, has picked up their factories and moved them overseas. Would you pay $20 for a tee shirt if it meant putting Americans at work in a safe environment with all the benefits and perks Americans are used to (40 hour work days, overtime, pensions or 401K’s with company contributions)?

        The other question, and I’m sorry if I’m running long in the beard here, is how can we create conditions where Americans are more aware of the ramifications of the decisions we make? Like, if we focus on clothes, are we missing out on the dangers of fracking, genetically modified foods, the plight of lemurs in Madagascar, atrocities in Sudan? How do we foster a socially literate American society?

        • Josh Miller

          Who takes the time to write that much, Malley? Nerd much!

          • Mr. Malley

            Yes sir! I wear my nerd loud and proud “Josh”!

  • Seth G

    If all a company owns is the factory, then all they should be responsible for is making the clothes. The consumer should be aware of how the clothes they purchase are made, and the government should be able to regulate the conditions that these factories operate in.

  • Clara

    If the company has nothing to do with the safety regulations of a factory, then they shouldn’t be the ones held responsible. If they are, then they should meet the requirements of the safety regulations so more workers don’t get hurt.

  • Dylan Miner

    The safety of the workers should be the number 1 priority for the company. It is wrong for the company to not have the safety regulations just to have there products made at a low cost.

    • Thomas M

      I agree that workers safety should be a main priority of the company but it is up to the factory to set safety regulations not the company.

    • Clay

      I agree with Dylan but the reasons that the products are made at a low cost are to compete with china.

  • Mark

    I do not feel like the corporations should be responsible for what happened if they are truly only leasing the building. They should however be held to some standard on the regulations keeping workers from hurting other workers. If it is an infrastructure problem , the company isn’t to blame. If it is a worker-induced problem, the company should. Because they are paying to have that individual work for them.

  • Tyler

    If the company isn’t regulating the safety of the factory, then the ones held responsible should be the factory, not the company. The factory should be the one getting the blame for these sorts of things because they are the ones in charge of the safety regulations

    • Ryan Pippin

      I agree with Tyler. The people inside the factory shouldn’t be responsible for the safety and regulations. The factory owners should make sure that the foundation of the building and other safety precautions are taken care of at least ounce a year.

  • Christian

    The government needs to have more regulation in factories like this, regardless of the price for the consumers.

  • Tim

    I feel that the company should be the one that is responsible for the well-being of its workers. Like Dylan said: “The safety of the workers should be the number 1 priority for the company.” I agree

  • Sidney

    If you’re going to put that many people in one building, you should always make sure it’s safe. Even if you don’t own the building, the building owners should be doing what they’re doing, and if you have to reassure that, it never hurts. No, you shouldn’t take the blame, but you did just stick 500 people in harm. Kind of risky. If you’re going to pay for a building, at least have it be safe.

  • JM

    Of course fashion companies should be responsible for the manufacturing of their products! If a company makes clothing for them, then H&M and such companies are indirectly responsible. It only works to their advantage; consumers like when workers have good working conditions and are not dying in building collapses. It is the role of the fashion company to makes sure the people manufacturing their products do not perish in preventable fires and building collapses.

    It is the role of the consumer to make sure they only buy products that are manufactured under good conditions. It is the role of the local government to set safety regulations that keep workers safe.

  • Syd

    Tragedies like these will keep occurring unless we as the consumer do something about it. These factories only stay in business because their product is in demand. Consumers need to let companies know like H&M and Zara that we are opposed to their clothing being manufactured by people who risk their lives by going to shoddy buildings to manufacture this cheap clothing. We have the moral responsibility as human beings to protect the right to life for all.

  • Alex M

    Three parties are responsible for this; the factory owners for not regulating the building, the companies for not caring where their products come from, and us, the consumers for supporting this cheap labor.
    Consumers are so intent on getting everything cheaper and easier that we don’t think about the fact that our purchases are forcing people in other countries into terrible conditions.
    Is saving money on clothes really worth 500 lives? I don’t think so. Unfortunately this change will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Companies and consumers have come to value quantity over quality, and continue to buy extremely cheap products that leave hundreds of thousands of employees badly treated, overworked and underpaid.

    • Grace


  • Grace

    I think the companies and corporations are fully responsible for the way the factories in Bangladesh, China, India, etc. are treating their workers. We hold a responsibility for terrorism abroad, and our foreign policies are based around stoping acts of terror, but we don’t think our government holds a responsibility for something every person in the United States purchases and uses? Since the September 11 attacks, a total of 238 American citizens have died from terrorist attacks, or an average of 24 per year. Only 238 in 11 years. Thus out of 25,719 terrorism-related deaths worldwide between 2010-2011, Americans accounted for only 0.124% ( 500 of these workers died in one day to produce items American citizens will utilize, yet we feel we have no responsibility for this act? Our government is responsible for ensuring the safety of all those we influence. With simple regulations placed on these fashion corporations in the United States based on limiting and restricting the purchasing from abroad, we can prevent many more deaths and accidents to happen in the future in these factories. The workers deaths are on our conscious.

  • Katherine Moser

    I believe that the large companies should take full responsibility for the production of their clothes, no matter how far away they are from it. The companies and the governments should place regulations of conditions of workers- this isn’t only an economic matter but also a human rights issue. The dignity of these workers, and workers all over the world, should not be ignored.

  • Sabiha

    In a terrible situation like this, every group: the company, the retailer, and the consumer- must take a share of responsibility. On a basic level, government regulation in countries like Bangladesh and China should enforce safety regulations for the well-being of their workers. In addition, retailers such as H&M and Zara should take a greater interest in where the clothes they sell are being produced, something that will only happen if we, the consumers, pressure them. We have the power to make the most change when it comes to the issue of ‘Fast Fashion.’
    The Clean Clothes Campaign described instances with garment workers in China: “We have endless overtime in the peak season and we sit working non-stop for 13 to 14 hours a day. It’s like this every day – we sew and sew without a break until our arms feel sore and stiff.”
    This is the price of our $20 shirts, and it is our moral imperative to choose living, breathing people over a piece of cloth whose life spans over the course of 2 measly weeks.

  • melissa

    Its terrible of what happen to all those people in that resource building when the earthquake happen. I agree that the buildings should take their responsibility of the products of shirts and and it won’t cost a lot over in the united states. and of what brand shirt they made for people.

  • Cheyanna

    I think that the company’s should take full responsibility for the production of there cloths, no matter what place they are from. In addition, retailers like H&M and Zara should take a greater interest in where the cloths that they are selling come from. The workers deaths should not be ignored.

  • Kelli

    If all the company is doing is using leasing the building to make their products then it’s not the company’s fault. The company did not build the building, they didn’t set the regulations for the people that did build it so they aren’t responsible for the building collapsing. However, the company should have been more aware of the conditions the factory was in that was making their product and as consumers we should be more aware of things like that, but neither the company nor consumers should be held responsible. The owner of the building is just as responsible as the contractor and other people that built the building, though they were just following regulations that should be set much high so this type of thing doesn’t happen.

  • Sam Stevens

    These companies are so worried about maximizing profit that people are dying over it. The companies need to do a way better job at making factory work safer.

  • Julia Lipply

    I do not think that the destruction is the company’s fault. The clothing company simply makes the clothing, not build their factory. I think that it is the clothing company’s job to make sure their working conditions are safe, but I do not think it is all their fault for the collapse of the building.

  • I agree with the previous posts in that I think the government regulations that apply to factions in the U.S. should also apply to those U.S. entrepreneurs/ businessmen choose to use in other countries. If the labor is cheap, wouldn’t the cost to build a factory to code also be inexpensive? Isn’t it costing the companies money when there are accidents and for the “down time” when the power goes out? Companies need to stop making money the top priority when they are endangering the lives of its employees.

  • Darin B.

    Well from the picture it looks like a sweat shop. I think that if they don’t own the factories then they shouldn’t be able to have any kinda of control over the clothes that are made and manufactured there. The government should step in close them down.

  • Jake

    Even thought they weren’t directly involved, they should take some responsibility. I think they should be funding the safety of the workers and their work environment. I don’t think the consumer should have no role in it but only to help change these human right problem. The government should make it illegal to pay cheap labor.

  • Brandon Strong

    They’re just straight being greedy, and more worried about how much moneys in their pockets, than how safe their employees are. The building should of been inspected from the foundation on up.

  • jesus

    I say why worry about putting regulations on factories in other countries when we could just opening up factories here in the U.S. creating more jobs for unemployed workers.

    • Tucker C.

      Well Mr. Jesus, the U.S. could care less about implementing foreign language into our education at a prepubescent age. This leads to our adults not being bilingual in the business world. So when big clothing companies are having board meetings the foreign partners have the ability to discuss anything they don’t want the Americans to hear. This puts the Americans at a severe disadvantage in the business world. This leads to American companies getting screwed out of lots and lots of money. That leads to the drive to make back as much money as possible. That, of course, leads to cheap outsourcing like in the video. I blame the federal government of the United States of America. I think education would be phenomenal if the feds wouldn’t touch it at all. Let’s devolve eh? Power to the states = power to the people. The federal government is too powerful. Big Brother will haunt you children. Socialism will cripple every sense of freedom you know. God Bless!

  • Mike Bloomfield

    I think that they should not be responsible for all the cloths that are manufactures in clothing companies. They should have regulations in the factories so there is no fires and the building collapse.

  • Amber

    I personally don’t think that it is the companies fault. The factory is the one that built the building. They need to make sure that the building is safe for the working to be in. The companies can not control that.

  • M.O.

    I think it is the company’s fault and the factory owner’s fault. But, shouldn’t the company check working conditions before deciding to put workers in the building? The government is just trying to spend less money, honestly, I don’t think they really care about the working conditions. If they did, don’t you agree that this wouldn’t have happened?

  • Zoie Lamar

    I dont think it really matters people buy it at that price so if that person is just stupid and does not want to wait until it getts cheeper.

  • Angel Figueroa

    I think that the whoever owns the buildings are responsible for the safety of the factory workers. Also the company who has their workers working their.

  • Susana Lopez

    I think that they should be responsible because they are the ones selling the clothes. They should also be able to make that they have safety and that everything is well done.

  • Jose

    I think that no they should not be responsible for the clothing because they don’t own the factories and it is the company’s fault because they need to make sure that their working condition are good and safe for the people in there they may have some fault in the collapse of the building.

  • Lauren

    The fashion companies should not be held responsible for the collapse of the building. They did not contribute to the construction of the building so it is not their fault that it was poorly constructed. The companies only use the building to produce their product. Odds are they weren’t even aware of the condition. The owner of the building should have participated in safety regulations, and therefore should be held responsible for this tragic incident.

  • Brandi

    I do not think that is it the companies fault. The companies do not know what kind of buildings the workers work in. They do not choose that. The people in Bangladesh and those other countries choose the buildings that the workers work in. If you are going to pick a huge building for A LOT of workers to work in, make sure that it is safely built and that nothing bad could happen to the workers, like it collapsing on people.

    • Alex

      True 🙂

  • Ryan Mareska

    No they shouldn’t worry about controlling their fashion clothing. They need to worry about the stores not how the clothes are being made. In the picture it looks like a sweat shop, plus who should worry about how much money they have to paid for their clothes being made.

  • Jamie Jagneck

    No I think that H&M and Zara should not responsible for the manufacturing of their clothing even though they don’t own the factories. Because it is not there building so why should it be put on them.

  • Yesenia

    I think company has nothing to do with the safety regulations of a factory. They shouldn’t be the ones held responsible. If they are, then they should meet the requirements of the safety regulations so more workers don’t get hurt.

  • Alex

    I think that people should not work in places like this. The company’s are not worried about the people and the conditions they are working in. All they want is the work to be done.

  • Morgan Hite

    Clothing companies should not be blamed for wanting to make clothes. If the company cant afford to buy a building then if should be ok to have a building be leased to them.

  • Nick

    I think that the company’s should take full responsibility for the production of there cloths, no matter what place they are from. In addition, retailers like H&M and Zara should take a greater interest in where the cloths that they are selling come from. The workers deaths should not be ignored.
    #KQED @rapoch

  • L.V

    well stuff happens and the people that own the clothing line should be responsible for what their workers are going through

  • Maggie Jablinski

    If all a company owns is the factory, then all they should be responsible for is making the clothes. The consumer should be aware of how the clothes they purchase are made, and the government should be able to regulate the conditions that these factories operate in. #KQEDdonow @rapoch

  • Kristi

    I think its both of their fault the company and the factories, but mostly the factories fault. The factory should be up to date on everything thats wrong with their buildings. And the company should be asking for these up to date on how the factory is doing if they want their workers working there, but obviously they don’t care about their workers only on making money just like the factories do.

  • Chris

    I always thought that it was their responsibility to know where the production lines are getting their things from. But since I see this now, it is up to the company that sold the factory or leased it. It’s like buying a car, the person selling it should be honest about any sort of problems. But since that doesn’t happen, it should be the buyer’s responsibility.

  • Nick M

    If the company is aware of the poor working conditions of the factories they buy from, then it is up to them to find a way to improve those conditions. The consumers can not be held guilty for buying clothing made of materials produced in these factories unless they too are aware of where their clothing has come from. It is up to the governments around the world (since many of these factories are outside the United States) to regulate these factories so that moral decency is upheld for the workers at the factories.

  • Jackie

    I think the factory collapse is the fault of both the companies and the factory owners. Fashion companies should treat all of their employees with the same benefits and responsibility. Companies should treat the employees in factories in all countries just the same as store clerks in America. The government should help by regulating factories outside the United States and hold them to the same standards. Companies should ensure equal practices in all factories producing their products. I think if the government, companies, and factory owners all team up, factories in all parts of the world will become safer, cleaner, and more efficient.

  • Abbie McGill

    As a consumer, the responsibility to support companies that pursue just and fair working conditions and circumstances is on your shoulders. With that said, it is hard to find companies that solely rely on production by means of fair wages and satisfactory working conditions. I believe that companies that do choose to maintain their production through these said “sweat shops” or the equivalent to those should have the responsibility of keeping those factories safe and clean and should feel the consequences and repercussions of disasters such as these. There should be some type of government aided incentive to companies that choose to produce their goods via just and fair means. All in all, it is up to the costumer to decide where they buy their goods; don’t shop at H&M if you do not support unfair and unethical working conditions.

  • Daniel

    The people who are at fault in this mess are companies who use the factories to make their product at a cheap price, the consumers, who continue to buy these products, and the building managers, who have let the building come to a condition where it may be too unsafe for work. The one person who we can not blame is the worker, this is out of their hands, when it comes to building safety. Cheap labor is becoming a worldwide problem because it allows dangerous working conditions, and low wages in third world countries, so people in first world countries can live more conveniently, it is a major problem that needs to be addressed, because at times it can inhibit basic human right that should be afforded to all people.

  • EP

    These companies decide where they produce their clothing. Because they can make this choice, they have a responsibility to choose factories that do have safe working conditions. Situations like these stem from the priorities of our modern culture, which desire wealth above everything else, even the safety of workers. Our want for more material possessions only goes to encourage and support this type of society. To avoid situations like this in the future, companies like H&M may have to settle for less profit in exchange for the more humane treatment of their workers.

  • Pingback: Popular Clothing Brands React to Bangladesh Tragedy | PBS NewsHour Extra | PBSPBS NewsHour Extra | PBS()

  • Miranda

    I believe that the stores that sell the clothing should be responsible. Those people worked hard everyday to make the clothing so not only the stores could make money but so they could make money for a living to support their families. The consumers i don’t believe can be responsible but they could help out. There should be a fund raiser in stores the stores that sell those items of clothing. Little buckets with Bangledesh support on them so people could chip in to raise money to help the families whom lost someone and to help recover and clean up the debris left by the factory.

  • Mike C.

    After reading this article I feel that the company should have been more aware of the conditions the factory was in that was making their product and as consumers we should be more aware of things like that.

  • Adam M

    I think that the companies like H & M should be responsible, because they are the reasons that the people are working in those types of conditions anyways. They are paying the people to be in that building and they should take responsibility for them as well. I think that with all the money they make off of these clothes they can afford to be inspecting the buildings regularly.

  • Dileon Pearsall

    Listen, to be honest they should have saw this coming as they said they saw cracks. I think all countries should have regulations on jobs. Have you ever thought about what this world would be like if there were regulations everywhere? First, there would be a lot of jobs still in the USA because it wouldn’t make financial sense to do business elsewhere. There are also negatives such as higher prices and higher cost of living because of the higher prices of the item. I think if you’re going to pay people so little at least make and keep them safe. For example, have monthly checks on the buildings and machines they’re using. Just think about what is better paying the little extra money for that or paying for anther building.

  • Jessie

    I don’t think the American companies should be responsible i think it is because there own country should regulate there companies.

  • tayler Arterburn

    I think that foreign country like this dont take the safety standards that the usa takes. The products they make are quick but are not that safe for the people. I believe they need to build good strong building and none of this would happen

  • Landon Mynatt

    I would say the company is accountable for the injured workers and the deceased workers. Someone in the video mentioned that the buildings had cracks the day before but the workers were assured it was safe. I would say the person responsible is the one who told workers the building was safe. It wasn’t very safe when it came crashing down.

  • kalee

    I don’t think that the companies should be allowed to get around health and safety regulations. The workers didn’t want to enter the building after seeing that it was damaged. However, they were assured that it was safe, when in truth it was not. Its obvious that the people higher up in the business are more worried about profit that the safety of their workers.

  • Josh

    I think that the fashion industry should be punished for crap like this. They are just trying to make a quick buck off of the suffering of others. These people are working in horrible conditions and are being paid next to nothing. This is something that is an atrocity.

  • cameron

    I would say that the company is not responsible and the person who constructed the building should be held accountable. I also think that the gov should have higher regulations for there buildings.

  • Megan

    The United States has rules and regulations about building safety and workers’ rights; why don’t we extend that to the countries that we outsource our work to? Cheap labor and increased production are the main motivators behind the carelessness of big chain companies. What doesn’t occur to these companies is that the factories they outsource to could be dangerous and that responsibility for the well-being of the workers comes back on the company whose products are being made in that factory. Those are real people who died and got injured, but the mantras of the companies are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and ‘it’s not our fault.’ The big companies don’t care if people are getting hurt while making their products because they’re saving so much money from the cheap labor. If companies choose to outsource to other countries, they should be required by law to extend the same workers’ rights that we get here in our own country. Maybe then the companies would choose to keep their factories here in the U.S. instead and jobs could be created here and the economy would improve. Really, it’s a shame that this happened, and it’s all because big companies are greedy and don’t take the blame for something that is, ultimately, their own fault.

  • Tucker C.

    I think that the earth should stop shaking. That building was fine until the earth just messed with it. Why don’t we extend our perfect, flawless American factory values to planet earth? That will solve all our problems! That or we could arrest the planet Earth. Yeah! Put her through a proper trial in our great judicial system! Incarcerate Earth in our completely roomy prison system! And we can blame all of this on conservative capitalists too! Yeah on second thought i think it was their fault! Well gee my benevolent, liberal, understanding, knowledgeable heart is all in a tizzy! Let’s turn to CNN for the right clear-cut story without bias! Because only fox news is biased! Those rascals! Anyhoo i have to go get dressed in all my name brand clothes from that factory, and go drink a seven dollar latte while i complain about how wrong this whole event was!

  • Aaron

    We want what we want at the cheapest price. We don’t really care about how it gets made, because in the end, it doesn’t effect us. We blame others even though we are the consumers. Products are made based on our demand. If we took any of the blame then we would feel bad, and we don’t want to feel bad, so we blame it on other people.

  • Ally Dugan

    I think the root of the problem is excessive consumer demand for cheap products. We are feeding the cycle that leads to unfair labor practices. When we go into stores like H&M, most likely none of us think of the sweatshops the clothes we buy are made in. Perhaps is companies had to disclose around the store and on the clothes tags that the products were made in unsafe factories, people would think twice about buying them. Our consumer power is extremely influential and by refusing to purchase goods made in sweatshops, companies will have to change their practices.

  • Kane

    I believe that these said companies should definitely be manufacturing their own clothing, or at least providing for the factories that supply them with clothes. I understand that it is the easiest and most efficient way to make a profit, but it is unfair to those who work in the factories and it is supportive of something that we as a country seem to stand against. As consumers we should not tolerate such actions and do what we can to at least put restrictions on factories to benefit the workers, and the government should step in as well and make some rules to follow so that people don’t unknowingly support actions such as these performed by H & M and Zara.

  • Izzy

    These companies do not only have a responsibility to provide goods to the consumer, but they have a responsibility to their employees as well (whether they be overseas or down the street). We should have a progressive policy to stop the exploitation of foreign workers. American companies should not feel comfortable so openly manipulating the system, and American consumers should not feel comfortable buying into and condoning that process. The American minimum wage should apply to foreign factories producing American goods as well. If American companies are producing the goods, they should be held up to American standards of labor and wage regulation. This exploitation should be publicized so that consumers are aware of the abuse. Low cost goods simply aren’t worth placing millions of foreign laborers in dangerous and strenuous work conditions, for which they are extremely underpaid.

  • I agree. The factories should be responsible for making better working conditions. The factory needs to be held more responsible.

  • M. Anonymous

    The #1 priority for these companies should have been the safety and health of their workers. They should of had their building inspected before entering just to be safe.

  • Jordan Sterling

    I think that any company factory has to have safety regulations. Safety should be a top priority for any factory. If your workers have any chance of being injured or killed, the company is alone responsible for fixing the safety hazard. The workers that are making the company money need to be protected by any way possible.

  • Theron Hardee

    I think that they should have much safer buildings and safety regulations

  • i do not think that the factory can be held accountable for this if they just rent it i think that the land lord would be responsible for upkeep

  • Brice

    I think that there should be some responsibility on the companies that don’t own the facility where their products are manufactured because they are acquiring the goods that are produced at risk to the wellbeing of someone else.

  • I think that if you’re going to put that many people in one building, you should have made sure everything was safe or at least figured out a maximum limit of people who can fit. The building owners I’m sure never would have guessed this would have happened but it never hurts to double check somethings.

  • zack volsky

    i believe that the company the factory and the government most of all should be held responsible. the government should make regulations on these factories to keep them up to standard. the factories should have been looking after their place to begin with and the company shouldn’t force so much labor.

  • lindsey b

    I think that no matter how much people get paid to work, they should also have a safe place to work. Cheap labor is more common every day, mostly over seas, but even though they do produce and manufacture cheap clothing, Their employer and country should try harder to create buildings and places for the people to work where they don’t have to worry about it collapsing. This wasn’t anybody’s fault, it was only a natural disaster, but it doesn’t matter what it was, peoples lives could have been saved if only more people cared. i know that if i went through what they go through everyday, for one day, i would want some major change to.

  • Aubrey

    I believe it should be the responsibility of who ever owns the building, to keep it up./ Not the companies that have there products made there. It’s not really there fault if the building is crap.

  • Waffles

    i agree with other peoples arguments because i do think that those companies should somewhat be held responsible for that tragedy and i also agree with the fact that those manufactoring factories need to have safety regulations, otherwise bad things could happen like buildings collapsing on workers like it did in Bangladesh.

  • Mickey Staver

    The company should want to have some participation in their own manufacturing process just to have surveillance of their products their selling to the public. Being completely responsible for however is a different story and i think the manufactures should take and responsibility for anything they agree to do for another company. #KQEDdonow @rapoch

  • Tyler Poe

    I think also that that the company should have a vested interest in the health and safety of the factories and the workers in those factories.

  • Samuel K.

    We have seen this so many times in history. From the triangle factory fire, to the fires in the middle east companies are more concerned about profit than the safety of their workers. It deeply disturbs me that in an age where we claim to be intelligent and at a better state than any other in history, apathy for the life of even one person is existent in just about everyone. As a society, we need to learn to care about the well-fare of others.

  • Bren

    Clothes are not to die for! Without the factory workers big business is worth nothing. All deserve a safe place to work and to be treated humanely. Totally appalled what brands of clothing and chain stores were involved with this death trap factory. Hope they now are clothed with shame enough to work and ensure future safety measures are implemented and practiced from their suppliers. Even if it means consumers pay a bit more for their clothing, to help towards accomplishing that goal. Many consumers now will be watching and listening to what brand name companies and stores will be helping toward implementing better working conditions. Most of all government could help toward change by making better trade policies that would prohibit trade with those that horribly exploit workers such as in this Bangladesh business.
    Hope justice prevails and the factory owner and CEO’s get sued and life imprisonment for the deaths of hundreds of employee’s.

  • Troy K.

    I find it up to the responsibility of the clothing companies to regularly inspect the building and working conditions of the workers. If inspection had been done properly or had been done at all, this thing wouldn’t have happened. I don’t find consumers to be a problem in this situation. Consumers shouldn’t be held responsible or a product of this destruction. If anything I think that it should be a shared punishment between the company, the contractor and the consumers of H & M. I think after this incident, more companies like this should realize the danger in ownership of factories like H & M in Bangladesh.

  • Andrew Avino

    I believe that the company isn’t entirely at blame but they should take some responsibility for what had happened. I think that since it isn’t their building that it isn’t technically their fault but since these factories are making clothes to these companies they should take some responsibility because without these factories these companies wouldn’t have any business.

  • Alec M.

    I do not really feel like the clothing companies should be entirely responsible for the condition of factories they do not own. Its not their job to maintain a building, its their job to design and sell products. However I do feel that the companies should at least be aware of the conditions their workers are in, and if they feel so willing, aid in the restoration of the facilities. Im guessing that the company H&M suffered a financial loss to their revenue because of this accident, since they had one less producer of their products. But overall it should be the responsibility of the people that actually own the factories to maintain and make sure its safe for workers.

  • Le’Quiesha J.

    Stevie, I feel this comment is WRONG!!!!!!!

  • Matt

    I don’t think anyone could have predicted that a building would just collapse, with inspections or not, a ton of weight like that you kind of trust to not fall on you. Anyway, I think if you’re going to outsource jobs, you should at-least keep up on inspections. Even if you just do a half year or year inspection, it’s better than letting people die. Even though the job/factory is outsourced, that doesn’t mean they’re not apart of your company, they’re still your workers and should be respected as such, with the bare minimum of safety at-least.

  • Evan Freeman

    I think factories should have more reasonable sense of responsible to protect there workers and their safety to not allow this to happen ever. Instead of dis- regrading what someones says to get out ,and just stay in the building to die! #KQEDdonow @rapoch

  • Brandon Bowling

    If all a company owns is the factory, then all they should be responsible for is making the clothes and should also be held accountable for the things that goes on in these factories. The consumer should be aware of how the clothes they purchase are made, and the government should be able to regulate the conditions that these factories operate in. #KQEDdonow @rapoch

  • Julia

    I recently wrote a research paper on the topic of fashion sustainability, and the effects fast fashion has on our environment. There is no question that many of these companies such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara have found a model that results in high profit with low costs. They are certainly doing something right strategy-wise considering that H&M boasting annual sales of $1.4 billion dollars solely in the United States. However, this comes at a big expense to the people producing the clothing and also our environment. But it is important to remember who is fueling this trend. Many American consumers are looking for the cheapest prices possible and don’t bother paying attention to quality. As long as Americans keep buying, the companies will keep producing. Next time you are out shopping, ask yourself if it is worth buying something that may only last a few months versus a high quality piece of clothing that will be a long-term investment.

  • Sophia

    Technically companies like H&M don’t have control over the factories and the conditions because other people own and demand what employees do. The owner or boss of the factory should be the one responsible for safety regulations and working conditions because they are the ones paying their workers not H&M. Unless H&M knows about what type of conditions that are going on. If These companies are aware of the type of conditions people are in while making their clothes and styles they shouldn’t manufacture or do business with a factory like that unless the factory changes safety and working conditions. Just to think that people are getting hurt around the clothing these companies are manufacturing is sad. The only thing companies could do is move to another factory because the major business owners from America can’t just set rules on foreign factory’s.

  • Pat Kearns

    People like cheap products but they also will support a product that represents a cause when all other factors are equal. Yes, the Bangladeshi government is wrong in not enforcing strict regulations. However, anyone who has done business abroad, especially in the third world, is well aware of these lapses in regulations enforcement. Here is the math: Bangladesh does 750 million dollars in trade with the us. They do 3 billion with the European Union. The estimated cost of upgrading manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh are about 7 billion. Us and European manufacturers using Bangladeshi facilities should work with the government to provide low cost construction loans, with factory owners putting in their fair share, to build and supervise the building of state of the art textile factories. It is a one time investment, with the return being far greater than the initial expenditure in terms of long term profits. And they can put a tag on their clothes saying they were made in a “green” factory in Bangladesh. No one wants to deprive the poor of Bangladesh a means of living. Us manufacturers have the power to hold factory owners’ feet to the fire in terms of using humane employment practices. The threat is do it or we will take our business elsewhere.

  • Kelly

    Why is there not safety precaution? If they had let people run it on how it should be, there would be no problem. I do not understand why they would not do something about it. If they see a crack in the wall, they should check it out because anything could happen. Many people died and it is said, they lost their life because there was no regulations in place. I had read these two articles which were very interesting to me. This article was interesting because they are now deciding to put in some regulations because they just saw what happened and they lost so many people. But it is also crazy that they had a fire in the same exact building in November. This other article they were trying to get these kids an education first. It is important for them to go to school first. They offer them to work and learn what to do and what to make. I guess it is fine, but they should have regulation in all factories because you are putting someone life in danger. And the company is not getting paid as much because they do not have regulation and their materials are so cheap that we do not have to spend so much money for the company to produce it.

  • Ella Waechter

    Yes, the factories should be held up to much higher standards. It is not the companies fault because the companies don’t own the factories, it’s the owner of the factories fault. If the companies know the factory has unsafe conditions then they shouldn’t manufacture with a factory like that unless the factory changes safety and working conditions for the workers to be safe. The companies doing business with the factories should be responsible for caring for their workers and doing inspection checks or examine the working conditions their workers are in. People who are buying the clothes don’t really care about things like this because everyone wants to buy their clothes at the cheapest price possible, for themselves, but no one takes into consideration the conditions the people making the clothes are in, and how dangerous it is. The government could have higher regulations for things like this, so everyone is safe.

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  • Sarah A

    I believe the companies using these factories shouldn’t be help responsible because they aren’t in control of what happens at the factory. All they are doing is using the place to make their clothing, they aren’t creating the terrible working conditions. Those who own the factories should be held responsible becuase they are the ones creating that atmosphere and the problems that come along with it, not the companies selling the products produced.

  • sidik

    The word of Responsibility can have different meaning, in 1 hand the factory being choosen by the company/buyer should be checked and investigate before placing the order, safety and environemnt department of each buyer should also do this in regular time to make sure not the only the product their produce are good but also the shake of the people who work for them.
    in other hand, even though the company/buyer already done this, factory have made necessary pre-caution, still, if its nature problem, they cannot do anything.


Matthew Williams

Matthew Williams is a filmmaker and media educator who has recently transplanted to Oakland from Los Angeles. He believes that you are what you eat and feels everyone should have a multitude of dietary options for self-realization. Matthew is the Educational Technologist at KQED.

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