Union Square – Action at American Eagle

New York, NY – In response to the recent garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, Local 100 research interns and OBB summer organizers petitioned at American Eagle’s Union Square branch, asking passersby to demand that AEO sign the Bangladash Fire & Building Safety Accord.

“The manager kicked us out of the store within 5 minutes, but that didn’t stop us from leafleting on the street!”

– Caitlin, NYC Research

“It was great to hit the streets and talk to people about AEO’s [failure] to sign onto an international accord guaranteeing independent safety and fire hazard building inspections at factories it sources from in Bangladesh. Many people were receptive to what we had to say, and I’m excited to see more people get involved in the coming weeks.”

– Antonina, NYC Research

“My name is Melissa and I am a Unite Here OBB summer research intern and a graduate of Colgate University and the CUNY Murphy Institute.

On Friday, June 14, 2013 and Tuesday, June 19, 2013, Unite Here OBB Summer Interns distributed flyers and petitions to customers inside of the American Eagle stores on 14th street and 34th street as well as to the general public outside of the stores to inform them of the retailer’s refusal to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord. The American Eagle Company is one of the few North American retail companies that have declined to participate in the Accord. The Accord would demand that companies conduct safety inspections in factories and allocate funds towards improved security measures. The Accord is particularly relevant at this time given the attention to the factory disasters in Bangladesh. Therefore, the Accord can help to alleviate some of the problems factory workers face every day on the job.

My fellow OBB interns, volunteers, and I engaged politely with individuals inside and outside of the stores to solicit their support for the workers who work in these factories in Bangladesh. Small delegations of interns were sent to speak with the managers in the stores to request that they call on the company to join the Accord. Some people were not aware of the conditions of factories in Bangladesh and the recent incidences that occurred and others refused to sign the petitions because they did not have the time to stop or were reluctant to make a commitment to the cause. Some of the individuals that worked in the stores refused to accept the flyers and sign the petitions out of fear of retaliation by the company.

On November 24, 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh killed over 100 workers who manufacture clothes for large retailers in the United States and only two months ago, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,000 people. Although many of the factories in Bangladesh have been declared unsafe, they continue to employ many workers. Unite Here is committed to the safety and improved working conditions of workers around the world. Workplace health and safety issues are not new to the union. In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory killed 146 workers who were members of the ILGWU. UNITE HERE was formed out of the merger of the ILGWU (International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the ACWA (Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America), the men’s clothing workers union, and the Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE). Hojiwashere

Overall, the action was effective at communicating with the public about the importance and necessity of American Eagle to sign the Accord. The needs of factory workers in Bangladesh are the same as all workers around the world, such as sustainable wages, job security, workplace health and safety, and employment benefits. Regardless of workers’ nationalities, health and safety is an essential component of one’s working conditions. It is not only important from a social and public health perspective, but also a moral issue, which recognizes that all people have human rights.”

– Melissa, NYC Research