Fashion brands and worker exploitation

In April of this year, 1,020 workers at Hulu Garment in Cambodia were told that due to a drop in orders during the Covid-19 pandemic, they would lose their jobs. This news was devastating for the apparel workers, who were already paid only a basic monthly wage of $ 192 a month, a wage that barely covered the costs of daily living, not to mention the accumulation of savings to get them through. during a crisis like this.

In another ruthless move, the owners of the factory asked the workers to sign a document with their fingerprints to receive payment of the final wage, after hiding a statement within the text that stated that the workers had ‘ voluntarily discharged. This deceptive move allowed the factory to avoid paying $ 3.6 million in severance pay legally owed to workers.

The plight of Hulu Garment workers is just one example of how apparel workers find themselves at the very edge of decisions made at the top of the supply chains, when brands cancel orders, demand big discounts, or delay payments during the pandemic. We estimate that apparel workers are owed $ 12 billion in unpaid wages in the first 12 months of the pandemic alone and at least half a billion dollars in legally owed layoffs.

The clothes sewn by Hulu Garment workers weren’t meant for struggling small businesses. Buying brands included Amazon. Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world. It bought $ 41 billion last year for apparel sales alone. While Amazon’s delivery, logistics, and factory worker struggles during the pandemic were well documented, the company’s profits during the pandemic increased 220%.

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Humanists are calling on the government to legally recognize humanist marriages in England and Wales

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The proposed reform of the human rights law would fundamentally undermine the rights of humanists

The exploitation that allows companies like Amazon to generate such inflated profits lurks in plain sight, in complex supply chains with unpaid workers on one side and a space-flying CEO on the other.

After decades of deregulation and outsourced production, the bands have successfully liberated all forms of accountability for the workers who make their own clothes. Yet it is brands, as major profit makers in the supply chain, that dictate prices and timelines that ultimately squeeze labor costs and encourage subcontracting and cut worker safety shortcuts.

Workers, trade unions and workers’ rights groups recognize the pandemic as a critical turning point for the apparel industry. We need to reset this model that ruthlessly pursues profit, leaving behind it devastation for workers and the environment. It is time for brands like Amazon to be truly held accountable for the conditions in its supply chain.

Big companies like Amazon have a duty to lead the way. The systematic shift of responsibility to the most vulnerable in global supply chains cannot be allowed to continue as usual. The pandemic has shown that change is vital and that pandemic winners, such as Amazon, must commit to rights, wages and social security.

Along with nearly 250 other workers’ rights groups and unions, we are calling on brands to sign an enforceable agreement on wages and layoffs, to ensure that workers are never more vulnerable in a crisis. It would take no more than ten cents per t-shirt for clothing brands to ensure that apparel workers, who have made billions in profits, receive the financial support they need to survive the crisis and strengthen unemployment safeguards for the future. .

Our hope for 2022 is that this year will be a year of solidarity with the workers in the supply chains. We want this to be the year consumers and activists amplify worker demands for brands to do better. We want this to be the year brands sign an executive agreement, which means they no longer comply with human rights legislation through voluntary initiatives that are inapplicable and have failed to bring about change. We can all help make this possible, so we want this to be the year of action.

Meg Lewis is campaign director at Labor Behind the Label, an NGO working to improve conditions and empower workers in the global apparel industry. The group is campaigning to ensure brands take responsibility for workers in their supply chain and is pushing for greater transparency, decent wages and workers’ rights in the industry. ”

@labourlabel and @meg_lewis_

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