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SEACAUCUS, NJ—On March 12, at the headquarters of the clothing company The Children’s Place, 27 activists were arrested after demanding compensation for the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 23, 2013.
Several of these activists were students at Rutgers University, and members of the Rutgers Chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops Local 109 (Rutgers USAS).
The Rana Plaza factory was an eight-story building in the heart of Bangladesh that held a number of businesses including factories that produced clothing for several American companies such as The Children’s Place, Calvin Klein, American Apparel, and J.C. Penney.
“Despite the arrests, USAS and the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity will continue their campaign against The Children’s Place,” reads the oficial press release of Rutgers USAS Local 109.
Almost two years after the collapse, workers who survived and the families of those who died have still not been compensated for their loss and suffering.
A total of $8 million dollars is owed by The Children’s Place alone, activists said.
Furthermore, the corporation refuses to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord, an agreement that would help ensure safe work conditions in clothing factories in the country of Bangladesh including building inspections and remediation.
“It’s not that we don’t want the work,” Bangladeshi Rana Plaza factory collapse survivor Mahinir Begum told a crowd last year at an information session on the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord.
“We need the work,” explained Begum, who was one of the 27 arrested Thursday.
“It’s horrible,” stated Rutgers USAS organizer Marisa Jiminez of the arrests.
“The Children’s Place is perpetuating violence against Rana Plaza victims and survivors not only by refusing to grant these workers their rightful compensation, but also by arresting a survivor herself and those who stood in solidarity with her,” said Jiminez. “Their actions are absolutely reprehensible and expose their misaligned priorities.”
Jiminez agreed with the protesters that corporations need to take more social responsibility and acknowledge the traumatic effects of forcing factory employees to work in unsafe conditions simply in order to meet a deadline.
Two national organizers of United Students Against Sweatshops as well as Kalpona Akter of The Bangladesh Center for Worker were also arrested in the demonstration.
Protesters were stopped after they entered the lobby of the headquarters, demanding the compensation that The Children’s Place agreed to pay. A video of the protesters after they were arrested is available on the official Facebook page of USAS.
Last year, Rutgers USAS succeeded in pressuring University President Robert Barchi to amend the University’s code of conduct to divest from clothing coporations that do not sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord, and continue to profit from factories with unsafe working conditions.
In December 2013, Rutgers USAS also sang Christmas carols to President Barchi in December 2013, with the lyrics clverely changed to reflect their demands in regards to the Accord.