tv Consider This Al Jazeera October 8, 2013 10:00am-11:01am EDT
this is al jazeera america coming to you live from new york city, i'm del walters. congress appears to be more polarized than ever. you are looking live right now at a briefing room that has been set up on capitol hill in washington, d.c., that's where we are awaiting word from house speaker john boehner. it has been another day of political wrangling on capital hill. we are moments away from that news conference from speaker boehner who has taken a hard
line. on sunday he said there weren't enough votes in the house to pass a clean continuing resolution that in essence would put an end to any government shutdown. president obama has been challengi challenging speaker boehner to put up a clean bill to a vote but he has not been willing to do this. we go live right now to washington and in a second we're going to talk to randall pinkston who is standing by live.
walmart announced that it had dropped success apparel as a supplier. we tried to speak to success' representative in bangladesh, but we found the company had closed down its office here. we also tried to interview the company's ceo, gila goodman, in new york but she refused to speak with us. kevin taxin was success' president at the time of the fire. he also refused to speak to us on camera. he now heads up another supplier called americo group. one of its clients...is walmart. >> if walmart were really so upset about what success apparel did, one assumes they would not be keen to continue to do business with a leading executive from success apparel. >> on the phone, kevin told us that neither success nor its agent in bangladesh, true colors, knew about the subcontract to tazreen. but we managed to track down true colors' last remaining
employee in dhaka. >> if there's any subcontracting, would you be aware of that? >> yeah. >> and then what do you do with that information? do you pass it up? >> yeah. we pass it up to our importer. >> so can you read this email for me and tell me who it's from? >> ok, it's saying hi kanta, i heard the shocking news about the fire last evening. it's nov 26. >> and what's the subject line of the email? >> fire at subcon. >> subcon is industry-speak for subcontractor. that email was sent by a manager at true colors shortly after the fire. so despite success' denials, their own agent may have been aware of the sub-contract to tazreen. that's all i have an real money.
we are on the trail investigating how walmart's supply chain works here in bangladesh. does the company know when its orders are being subcontracted? is the way they source their clothing- the system itself -flawed? the garment industry is notoriously secretive, so we needed an insider. we're on our way to meet an auditor. he was hired by wal-mart to assess standards at some of its factories. it's very rare for auditors to speak on
the record and he doesn't want to speak to us on camera. so we recorded the conversation secretly in bangladesh, government regulation of garment factories is lax, and international companies are not legally required to ensure working conditions are safe. some companies hire auditors to inspect the factories. >> the purchasing system of walmart is very complex. >> how so? >> because they rely on their agents. they don't source directly from the factories. that is the problem, in my opinion. because if you rely on agents, that agent sends the order to sub-agent. that sub-agent sends the order to another agent so it changes 3, 4 times. >> what do you think about their system? >> bad. >> why do you think that's bad? what's wrong with using agents? >> using agents means you don't know your entire supply chain, from where your products are coming in. you don't have any idea. that's the danger. so you have very little idea after one
or two agents, you are lost in the supply chain. >> from what you're saying it sounds like walmart's supply chain is so out of control that there could be more tazreens? >> walmart has no idea from where their goods are coming from. this is the bad and worse sentence i can say. walmart has no idea where their goods are coming from. >> well, if walmart doesn't know where its goods are being produced, it's because they choose not to know. this is a company whose success is built first and foremost on an extraordinary level of control they exert over production in their global supply chain. >>walmart refused to give us any information about its supply chain. but a spokesperson told us walmart relies on its suppliers to implement the company's standards. there's a reason bangladesh is so popular with companies,
especially those that produce inexpensive clothes that need to be made quickly. >> it's the rock-bottom, cheapest place in the world to make apparel. it's cheap because it has the lowest minimum wage for apparel workers in any country in the world at 18 cents an hour >> that's about 38 dollars a month. but it goes both ways - garments are just as important to bangladesh, accounting for 80 percent of its exports and giving jobs to 4 million people, mostly poor women. that gives the industry enormous leverage inside the country >> so what they do - the retailers and buyers come here to look for the cheapest supplier. so here there is a buyer's market. everybody share -- everybody takes a share of the cake so formally we have 5
to 6 layers, but here are many hands with these layers who are taking all this money. >> it's not just the multi-nationals. in bangladesh everyone wants a shot at making it in the ga rment industry. i'm headed to a small factory that does finishing of garments. they're supposed to be finishing garments for walmart. i'm posing as a buyer to get in there. for those who can't open large factories, there's always business in sub-contracting, even if it means putting the finishing touches on garments before they're shipped out. >> do you make anything that ends up in walmart? >> yes >> you've made products that go to walmart? >> were you an authorized
walmart subcontractor? >> so is this very common? that a lot of factories subcontract for big labels like walmart without authorization? >> sabina? you're 14? so you started working when you were 13 years old? >> so what's the average age of your workers? >> but we just spoke to a girl who said she's 14. >> walmart told us they don't tolerate child labor in their supply chain - and they're investigating whether this finishing center did any work on walmart products.
once we found one finishing house, it wasn't hard to find others. >> what are you making? >> how many buttons do you put on everyday? >> how old are you? >> how long have you been working here? >> shewli, how old are you? >> shewli, do you go to school? >> how much money do you make here, shewli? >> 2,500 take is just 32 dollars a month. >> shewli, you're putting the elastic band into old navy pants? >> it says "old navy" >> old navy >> old navy is owned by gap inc,
one of the largest clothing companies in the world. this is where a lot of america's clothes come from - and it's a reality many companies don't want us to see. this is one of very many subcontracting factories at the bottom of the supply chain in bangladesh. it seems completely unregulated, completely unauthorized. // there's no fire extinguisher, no fire exit. it's just a shack in someone's backyard. >> this morning we went to a finishing house and they had about 20 workers there. more than half of them were under 14.there were girls as young as twelve making clothes for gap. >> really? in a finishing section that you went? oh, my gosh. oh, my gosh. i mean for me, i just can't believe. so this is the time that gap should step forward to make this
correct. oh, my gosh. so see how critical is the supply chain is. how critical it is. >> gap declined to give us an on-camera interview. they did give us a statement, though, saying the products we found were quote "either counterfeit or improperly acquired." but through the barcodes on the tags we found at the finishing house. we were able to match the garments to ones at old navy stores in the u.s. gap added that it "strictly prohibits any vendor from employing underage workers" >> there is a fairy tale that major brands and retailers like gap and walmart tell to public. in this fairy tale gap and walmart are companies that are socially responsible and deeply committed to protecting the rights of workers and making every effort to inspect their
factories and ensure that everything is on the up and up. that fairy tale has very little to do with the reality of the supply chain. for walmart, for gap, worker rights issues are not a moral issue. they're an issue of reputational risk and walmart and gap understand that their image in the eyes of the public has a very large impact on the degree to which they can get people to come to their stores and buy their goods. and so to the extent that they can be convinced that their image will be damaged if they don't do the right thing for workers, than they will make change. >> months after the tazreen fire, the memories of that disaster - and the ones that followed - are still fresh in people's minds. kalpona akter, a worker's rights activist, rushed to the scene not long after the fire began. >> it was horrific. for my experience, i think, i was crying and still you could feel the heat inside and my skin was burning.
it took walmart two days to acknowledge its connection to tazreen... after photographs emerged showing its labels in the wreckage. the walmart clothes wasn't burned to ash, some others maybe, but not them. >> kalpona, like the women who survived the fire, is still haunted by what she saw that day. it's a feeling that when you are on the inside of the building you can feel that how these workers fought to remove these window bars. my feeling was like nothing could be worse than this, nothing can be worse than this. like seeing these people burnt to ash and their family crying in front of you and they cannot find, identify their bodies, whether it's their beloved or not. nobody thinks about these human faces who are making clothes for them and dying in these
>> welcome to al jazeera america, i'm del walters. these are the stories we are following for you. >> the central argument is this, are we going to sit down and have a conversation or aren't we? >> both parties say they want to talk it out but no change still. more weapons inspectors now headed into syria. and north korea puts its forces on alert.
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