Molly Beckhardt

Spring 2014

Year: ILR '14

Cornell Activities/Groups/Affiliations/Leadership Roles:

  • Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA)
  • Cornell Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS)
  • Cellist in the Cornell Symphony Orchestra (CSO)
  • Vice president of Watermargin Cooperative

Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety, a project affiliated with the Worker Institute

Describe your research project: I'm doing research under Professor Sarosh Kuruvilla on the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse by comparing the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety with the Alliance for Worker Safety. My colleague, Karen Li, and I are currently looking into the way companies have reacted to one of the largest garment industry disasters in recent history. We're comparing CSR policies between companies that have signed on to the Accord versus those that have signed onto the Alliance, trying to parse out differences in behavior between these companies and their multi-stakeholder initiatives. We've been interviewing various people involved in the effort to raise workplace standards in Bangladesh, such as Scott Nova and Jakir Hossain.

What have you gotten out of the experience so far? Having the opportunity to conduct interviews face-to-face with those involved in the Bangladeshi labor movement has been extremely valuable. We were able to travel to Washington D.C. to speak to Scott Nova, the director of the Worker Rights Consortium for a perspective that we wouldn't have been able to find with online research. It shows how important it is to directly interact with those who are working directly working on a research project.

What kind of student might be interested in a research fellowship at the Worker Institute? I would recommend this fellowship to people who are interested in workers' rights in the international arena. The Bangladeshi labor movement is fascinating and there is a good deal of new organizing that has been taking place recently. Though it's too soon to tell now, it would be interesting to see how organizing changes in the aftermath of Rana Plaza and whether these new multi-stakeholder initiatives have an impact on workers' ability to strengthen the labor movement in the garment sector.