A little over a year ago, 29 workers were trapped in a fire and died tragically in a Bangladesh garment factory that produces goods for Tommy Hilfiger, Gap and Kohl's, among other companies. And despite the fact that (according to labor groups) dangerous conditions including locked gates and bad wiring have persisted, and workers have continued to die, each of those companies has continued to do business with these dangerous factories, according to a new investigation by ABC's Brian Ross.
Ross reports that since the fire, officials from PVH Corp. (the company that produces Hilfiger's clothes), Gap and Kohl's would not agree to repeated requests for interviews. So, in Februrary, ABC spoke to Hilfiger at his show during fashion week, where he told reporters, "We will never manufacture clothes in any of those factories ever again." ABC was then kicked out of the venue by security and it turned out what Hilfiger had said was a lie. A few days later, Hilfiger admitted, "I did make a mistake in telling you that I would imagine we'd be pulling out of Bangladesh when in fact that wasn't true."
So why is he still using those hazardous factories to produce his preppy staples? PVH CEO Emanuel Chirico told ABC they were "trying for a global solution" and stayed in the factories to serve as a positive force, arguing that "You need to have a voice at the table to get changes made as you go forward."
According to the report, PVH has been the first to demand better conditions--imposing fire safety standards and committing over $1 million to "design and implement a fire safety inspection program based on internationally recognized workplace safety standards."
Gap told ABC that they were also in similar negotiations with the factories.
Whether PVH was reluctant to pull out of the factories because they wanted to help improve or just wanted to keep producing their clothes cheaply, remains to be seen. Regardless, we're glad that Hilfiger is at least being open in acknowledging the problems and that the company is taking real steps to fix them.