Jessica Stites is Executive Editor of In These Times, where she runs the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting and edits stories on labor, neoliberalism, Wall Street, immigration, mass incarceration and racial justice, among other topics. Before joining ITT, she worked at Ms. magazine and George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ms., Bitch, Jezebel, The Advocate and AlterNet. She is board secretary of the Chicago Reader and a former Chicago Sun-Times board member.
Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times reports that a fund to compensate the families of the 1,100 Bangladeshi workers who died in the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory will start out with $40 million.Contributors to the fund include labor groups, the Bangladeshi government, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and four European and Canadian retailers—but, thus far, no U.S.-based corporations.The fund is being heralded as a landmark model for fair compensation, Greenhouse writes: Several officials involved in negotiations to establish the fund said in interviews that the families of the dead would receive, on average, more than $25,000 each, while hundreds of workers who were injured or maimed would also receive compensation. Per capita income in Bangladesh is about $1,900 a year. The fund’s members said they hoped to begin making payments in February, although they have yet to decide how much each firm will contribute, which depends in part on whether governments donate. The money is to be paid in installments to ensure that the families have a steady source of income for years to come. “We think the agreement is a really good result,” said Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign, a European antisweatshop group that has pressed retailers to do far more to help the families of the disaster’s victims. “The agreement will deliver to all the victims and the families of the Rana Plaza disaster full and fair compensation in a credible manner. What we need now is for other companies to agree to pay into the fund.”Walmart, which had jeans manufactured at one of the buildings in the complex, has been called upon to contribute, but has not done so.