Sociology Department Colloquium Series for 2013-14
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Rich Appelbaum and UCSB labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein have received a prestigious month-long residency at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy, to write a book on how to achieve workers' rights in a global economy. Today, brands and retailers no longer manufacturer their own products, but instead rely on globally dispersed supply chains comprised of independent contractors to make the goods we consume. They then adopt codes of conduct which they claim assure that their contract factories provide safe working conditions and decent wages. These codes, while useful as public relations tools, have done little to improve working conditions. In Bangladesh, factory fires have claimed hundreds of lives – in factories that were inspected and pronounced fully compliant with corporate codes. The Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 24, 2013 – the worst factory disaster in memory, claiming more than 1,100 lives and injuring thousands of others – was a wakeup call. In their Bellagio residency this coming September, Rich and Nelson will examine history's lessons for today's global supply chains, recommending steps that can be taken to assure workers' rights.
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