To Harold Meyerson in his column Wednesday, Wal-Mart’s all-bottom-line business strategy should be morally, if not legally, responsible for the deaths in a terrible fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh. Workers were trapped and burned to death in horrible conditions that reveal nobody in charge much cared if the workers could escape a fire or not. Clothes destined for Wal-Mart, among other stores, were found at the site. Wal-Mart didn’t employ anyone there. In the more than 2,200 comments on Meyerson’s article, commenters argue and counter-argue. How responsible is the company, and how responsible are American Wal-Mart shoppers, for the tragedy and tragedies like it?

quarterback says Wal-Mart is not responsible for what other companies do, full stop.

Btw, virtually every large company or firm has ongoing independent service providers — copy and office services, cleaning and custodial, logistics, uniforms, plant care, landscaping, you name it.

That’s how business and economics work. A isn’t responsible for B’s failure to provide its employees with pay stubs.

usna1974 says you have to step back and look at the bigger picture, because it’s huge:

If a surgeon has 10,000 successful operations, and then one goes bad, is he a hack? There are likely thousands of companies in hundreds of countries that make products that Walmart sells. To draw a conclusion that ALL companies overseas must be bad from this once incident is pushing it. We have had fires in nightclubs in the US that have killed as many or close to it. I am willing to bet that some laws were broken in that country, but I am not willing to hang Walmart as being responsible for what some shop foreman did halfway around the world.

Desertstraw says buyers whose first priority is low prices know they’re putting safety of workers farther down on the list:

I hate to defend Wal-Mart, it is much more fun to attack it. However, what Wal-Mart does is standard for American business, and maybe they do it better. The American consumer wants the lowest prices and cares little about how they are achieved.

mustang946 agrees:

The general public says that they support unions, environmental concerns, etc.,but tend to vote with their wallets.

oldngrumpy1 argues that the taxpayers are indirectly footing Wal-Mart’s bills, referencing a statistic from a U.C.-Berkeley study of how much Wal-Mart workers receive from the government as low-income benefits, like Medicaid:

$2.3 Billion pr year. $420,000 pr store. How’s that “Low Price Guarantee” look now?

Centsorsense puts it more clearly than PostScript did up above:

I don’t shop there, but my taxes support their low wage strategy.

And Poolice scolds Meyerson’s implication that lack of Western witnesses will dull the impact of the Bangladeshi fire:

Meyerson commits a blatant oversight in his opening paragraph. The Shirtwaist fire might have been spectacled by thousands, but in this day and age millions have heard of the fire in Bangladesh shortly after it occurred. His argument then falls apart when concerning the light of publicity, unless he posits that only those who directly witnessed the fire lead to any change in our manufacturing laws.

PostScript included that because she wanted an excuse to mention a bit of trivia she loves. One of the eyewitnesses to the Triangle fire was Frances Perkins, future Secretary of Labor, who brought us, with much struggle, minimum wage and Social Security legislation and, PostScript learned today from Wikipedia, has a feast day in the Episcopalian Church. Point being, those who did witness the Dhaka fire are, they must be, readying for a fight.