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Opinion piece challenges Wal-Mart's care for worker safety

Because most people who read this blog or news in general likely don't follow Bangladesh news, readers might not know of a tragic fire that took place in a warehouse in Bangladesh last weekend. More than 100 workers reportedly died in the fatal workplace accident.

The faraway tragedy does have ties to the U.S., as pointed out in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. Upon investigating the horrific warehouse scene, officials found remnants of product that can be tied to a business giant in the U.S.: Wal-Mart.

A label on one of the apparel products found at the site of the fire is a brand sold through Wal-Mart. That evidence has some of the company's critics finding just one more reason to doubt the ethics of the popular discount business.

An investigation into the fire that killed the many workers and injured others indicates that doors at the warehouse were locked, there were no emergency exits and workers, therefore, attempted to jump to safety. Safety isn't what many of them found.

It is important to note that the warehouse where the fatal incident occurred housed workers employed by various companies, not just Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart contracts work out to other entities, who then take the role of responsibility over their workers' safety.

In his Washington Post opinion piece, Harold Meyerson suggests that this out-sourcing is a way for Wal-Mart to get its work done for cheap and also without having to take responsibility for injuries and deaths tied to the production of its products.

Wal-Mart will likely not be targeted for the deadly fire. We can't say for sure whether it should.

To create a world where workers are treated ethically and don't needlessly die, however, it is worthwhile to keep track of issues like this. American businesses do get some of their work done out of this country. While that may save them money and keep prices of goods lower here, there are also safety consequences that often go unnoticed.

Source: The Washington Post, "Wal-Mart's strategy of deniability for workers' safety," Harold Meyerson, Nov. 27, 2012

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