By: Press Release | Sidney Hillman Foundation
NEW YORK — Julfikar Ali Manik, Steven Greenhouse, and Jim Yardley of the New York Times win the May Sidney Award for their extensive coverage of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. The seven-story factory complex crumbled on April 24, killing over 1100 people. Most of the victims were garment workers who died sewing clothes for Western companies like Walmart and Benetton.
The Times’ coverage began in the immediate aftermath of the collapse and continues to chronicle the economic, social, and political repercussions of the world’s worst industrial disaster. The winners have published well over a dozen stories since the accident, including a moving account of the race to save a survivor trapped in the rubble, a profile exposing the criminal past of the owner of Rana Plaza, and regular updates on the negotiations that led up to the historic worker safety accord.
The team’s work stood out because it focused not only on the human tragedy, but on the systemic factors that make fires and building collapses a recurring hazard for Bangladeshi garment workers.
Consumers who had never given any thought to the “Made in Bangladesh” labels on their clothes learned that Bangladesh is the cheapest place in the world to make clothing, that millions of garment workers work in structurally unsound factories, and that the current system of self-policing by Western companies fails to prevent tragedies, such as the factory collapse and the many factory fires.
Now that the truth is out, Western brands are facing overwhelming pressure to bring the Bangladeshi factories that make their clothes up to code. In the wake of the tragedy, Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M, Bangladesh’s biggest clothing customer, signed a legally binding agreement to dramatically upgrade its factories. In addition to H&M, 37 other companies have signed the accord. But they are overwhelmingly European. In the U.S., only PVH and Abercrombie & Fitch have signed on to date.
“The winners’ coverage thrust safety conditions in Bangladesh into the international spotlight and helped put pressure on Western brands to improve conditions for workers,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein.
Julfikar Ali Manik works for the New York Times in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was a 2011 Dart Asia Fellow.
Steven Greenhouse is the labor and workplace reporter for the New York Times. He won a Hillman Prize in 2009 for his book, “The Big Squeeze.”
Jim Yardley is the New York Times bureau chief in New Delhi. He shared a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the rule of law in China.