Dr. Greenwald piece featured in Los Angeles Times

Dr. Richard Greenwald’s latest piece, “Dying for the shirt on your back” appeared as an op-ed piece the Los Angeles Times for its May 7 issue. (Click here to view the article.) Co-written with journalist and documentary film producer Michael Hirsch, the essay argues that the roots of two of the world’s most horrific workplace disasters, the Triangle Shirt-Waist Fire of 1911 and the recent factory collapse at Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, lie in the same perpetrator — the global apparel industry and consumer complacency.

Greenwald and Hirsch compare the recent tragedies that occurred in Bangladesh to an earlier time in New York City’s history, when Manhattan was a hub of both manufacturing activity. They describe the fire at the Triangle Shirt-Waist Factory on March 25, 1911, and of how this tragedy transformed the United States, bringing about respect for workers’ rights and consumer awareness.

Yet, despite the century that has lapsed, the authors argue, both of these accidents stem from the continuing nature of the global apparel industry, which has been essentially unchanged since the tragedy of March of 1911. Intensely competitive with extremely tight profit margins, and dominated by subcontractors, the garment industry has grown even more opaque and convoluted, with layer upon layer of subcontractor spread across the world leading to even less transparency. Those that bear the brunt of industry, however, remain still - young women, working for poverty wages in appalling conditions.

The Rana tragedy, Greenwald and Hirsch state, should be considered a global Triangle fire for consumers, and should serve as a tragic reminder that there is a human cost to lower and lower prices. Only by demanding better conditions for workers in the global apparel industry can society end its complicity these horrific and preventable disasters.