"Made in Bangladesh": Improving Women's Health and Workplace Rights in the Factories of Multinational Corporations

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Bangladesh’s garment industry was booming with little consideration for its workers until the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse confirmed global concerns about poor working conditions. Today, more than 3.2 million women workers, who make up 80% of the industry’s workforce, remain subject to these vulnerable workplaces, not only suffering in tragedies like factory fires and collapses but also struggling through their daily upkeep with poor health and management’s violations of their rights. At the expense of these workers, multinational corporations like H&M, Wal-Mart, Nike and more capitalize on a low-cost business model to successfully compete in global markets and drive up their bottom lines. But the continuation of this exploitative behavior for trade is unsustainable for these women, their roles in society, and even U.S.-Bangladeshi trade relations. After the U.S. joined other global bodies in penalizing Bangladesh for its inability to address workers’ conditions, these conditions only worsened. Hence, this decision memorandum proposes a more targeted U.S. trade policy tool that aims to improve women’s health and workplace rights in these Bangladeshi factories. The first part of the policy focuses on the profile of the majority of workers – women – addressing their health issues and rights violations as a mechanism to further improve working conditions. To support the effectiveness of these improvements, the second part of the policy addresses the trade issues that contribute to the problems faced by these women workers. However, considering the nature of American politics in 2016, the memorandum concludes with a recommendation to the President of the United States to rather take immediate action on addressing the women’s issues and to, therefore, postpone efforts in addressing the second component of the policy for a more appropriate political climate.
CSR, Women, Health, Trade