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How shoppers can help prevent Bangladesh-type disasters

While rescue workers continue to dig through the rubble of Rana Plaza, the collapsed Bangladeshi garment factory responsible for the deaths of 433 people (and counting), Americans are faced yet again with the stark reality of consumer culpability in these disasters.

Major clothing retailers like Wal-Mart, Joe Fresh, JCPenney and the Children's Place were each found to have subcontracted manufacturing to the crumbling factory in Savar, where workers were making an average of $38 a month and coerced to report to work even after the walls of the building were literally falling apart. In November, fire ravaged another garment factory near the capital city of Dhaka, leaving 112 dead. Again, pieces of clothing from Sears, the Walt Disney Co. and other major retailers were found among the scorched remains.

In the aftermath of such tragic, and preventable, losses of life, many consumers are left asking themselves what role they can play in discouraging disasters like this from happening again. And, fortunately, there are answers. The collective power of workers is a real thing, and the collective power of consumers is, too.

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