It’s disgusting, because their unwillingness to take even a small cut in profits means Americans have very few options when it comes to buying clothes that didn’t exploit people in other countries:
Nearly all U.S. clothing chains, citing the fear of litigation, declined to sign an international pact ahead of a Wednesday deadline, potentially weakening what had been hailed as the best hope for bringing about major reforms in low-wage factories in Bangladesh.
Companies including Wal-Mart, Gap, Target and J.C. Penney had been pressed by labor groups to sign the document in the wake of last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed at least 1,127 people. More than a dozen European retailers did so. But U.S. companies feared the agreement would give labor groups and others the basis to sue them in court.
[…] Supporters of the accord say that the U.S. companies are simply trying to dodge an extra cost.
“It’s a smokescreen,” Nova said. “The agreement doesn’t create any additional legal liability. Companies only have to meet the terms of the agreement.”
Other experts are similarly puzzled by the worries over arbitration.
“You have major British companies like Marks & Spencer and Tesco signing up, respected companies from a legal system that isn’t all that different from our own,” said Janice Bellace, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at theWharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s not clear why the U.S. companies think it will be so different.”
U.S. retailers are facing pressure to improve their safety standards. Last week, the International Labor Rights Forum and United Students Against Sweatshops launched a “Gap Deathtraps” Web site with photos of the factory collapse, urging Gap to sign the retailing agreement.