Bangladeshi Unions and Labor Rights Orgs Demand REI Cut Ties with North Face

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Just last week, four Bangladeshi unions and labor rights organizations sent a letter to REI demanding that the company cut ties with The North Face over its abysmal track record of labor rights abuses in Bangladesh and beyond.

For over two months, students have been leafletting, picketing, and chanting at REI stores to demand the company end its relationship with the company. Unfortunately, instead of taking students’ concerns seriously, REI responded by claiming that, despite killing 29 workers in its factories, VF is a corporate social responsibility leader in the outdoor industry – and its refusal to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord is “legitimate.”

The only party who can really say whether or not VF’s refusal to sign the Accord is legitimate is Bangladeshi workers and their unions. They have spoken unequivocally to REI on this issue:

“Most importantly, The North Face/VF, Walmart and the other leaders of the Alliance retain complete control over the program’s governance, inspection, and remediation process, and legitimate worker rights organizations like ours have no say in the organization’s decisions or operations. Your letter to USAS states that the Alliance has ‘the involvement of Bangladeshi labor organizations.’ However, the reality is that these Alliance unions represent almost no workers in the garment sector, and unlike the Accord, these unions have no decision-making or enforcement power under the Alliance. These are critical differences that make the Accord an effective program, while the Alliance represents a step backwards for worker safety.

As Bangladeshi worker representatives, we ask that you not be fooled by the claims made by The North Face/VF and the Alliance. Given our vast experience representing garment workers, we believe the Accord is the only way for The North Face and VF to meaningfully address worker safety in Bangladesh. Because the company has refused to sign the Accord, we ask that you immediately end your business relationship with The North Face/VF.”