September has not been a good month for whoever makes the big decisions at JC Penney. First there was the alarmingly dumb t-shirtbacked that told little girls that being pretty was more important than doing their homework, and now the mass retailer has reneged on a promise to compensate the families of several hundred workers who died in a Bangladesh factory fire.
The “tragic and preventable fire” happened last December at the That’s It Sportswear factory (which has been called an unsafe sweatshop), killing some 30 people. Those people and their coworkers made clothes for several American clothing companies, including Gap, Inc., Abercrombie and Fitch and the corporations that own Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and The North Face.
As of February, the International Labor Rights Forum and Change.org had gotten all of the companies that hired the factory’s workers to agree to compensate the families of the 30 workers who died — and to work to improve safety standards at their supplier factories. Including JC Penney. But now, JC Penney has backed out of that deal.
The company claims that while it won’t pony up the money it promised, it is still “working aggressively to support a joint effort by the Bangladesh apparel industry and government to implement improved fire safety standards to prevent future catastrophes.”
Problem is, the International Labor Rights Forum, which observes these working practices, hasn’t noticed any changes in the way JC Penney treats its Bangladeshi employees.
“All we’re asking is that JC Penney keep the promises they made to the wives, husbands, and children of the 30 people killed at one of their supplier factories,” said Judy Gearhart of the International Labor Rights Forum. “While the other brands who have made commitments to support these families continue to work with us in good faith, JC Penney has sadly walked away from the table. They need to honor their commitment to these families who have already lost so much and to take preventative action to ensure that no more workers who sew JC Penney clothing are killed in factory fires.”
Want to give JC Penney a piece of your mind? Over 75,000 people already have by signing a petition asking the company to pay what it owes.