July 07, 2018
This morning’s Wall Street Journal bears a headline that “Nike Rethinks Pay, Bonus Practices.” In the #MeToo era that we are living, Nike executives had to account for “ignoring an abusive culture,” as the USA Today put it. The Wall Street Journal characterized it as a “Boys-Club Culture” at the end of March. According to thee USA Today, the decision amounts to a wage increase for about 10% of all direct Nike employees. These are welcome steps, but it is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Nike has a vast supply chain where many people critical to the company’s bottom line are exploited and under paid. We have talked about this issue in this blog previously, including this post. While we celebrate this advance for some 7,000 direct Nike employees, we continue to mourn for so many individual factories where that number labors at a pittance and amid great hardship. Nike must take greater responsibility for the care of workers in its supply chain. While acknowledging the wrong done to these direct employees, Nike remains willfully blind to the wrongs done to so many more workers the world over. A global company like Nike can, and must, do better. As Nike used to say, “Just do it!”
July 07, 2018
Last week, the U.S. Department of State released its Trafficking in Persons Report for 2018. The full, 486-page report can be found here. The annual report contains assessments on global progress fighting human trafficking. First published in 2011, the report offers one of the more systematic global views of trafficking in persons as well as the charting of progress from year to year.
In the report, countries are evaluated into three tiers. Tier 1 consists of “countries whose governments fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.” Below Tier 1, Tier 2 contains countries that may not meet the TPVA standards, “but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.” A “Tier 2 Watch List” consists of countries that are similar to Tier 2, but have other issues, such as an increasing number of trafficking cases or a lack of improvement on previously-implemented anti-trafficking efforts. Tier 3 countries are those “whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”
We know that the garment industry, from the cotton field to the factory, is one of the top industries plagued by human trafficking. The Atlantic even declared “All your clothes are made with exploited labor.”
The cotton campaign has developed statements for both Uzbekistan which was upgraded to tier 2 http://www.cottoncampaign.org/us-decision-fails-forced-labor-victims-in-uzbekistan.htmland Turkmenistan which remains at tier 3 http://www.cottoncampaign.org/turkmenistan-remains-in-the-lowest-possible-ranking-in-the-annual-tip-report.html. Catholic News Agency covered the report here, noting that trafficking remains a problem in the U.S.
April 04, 2018
The years of 2017 and 2018 have had birthed movements that are transforming the U.S.: the women’s march, the #MeToo movement, the #NeverAgain movement, the #Resist movement, to name but a few.
Sexual abuse and exploitation in the workplace are not unique to the U.S. As for violence, a July 2016 report revealed that one in seven women working in Indian garment factories suffered sexual violence, including rape, in the workplace. As victims often are reluctant to acknowledge sexual abuse, we know this number is low. In the global garment industry, vulnerable workers, nearly three quarters of them women, have limited or no legal protection and few formal grievance mechanisms. Fast Fashion makes our closets silent memorials to dangerous workplaces for women.
Next week marks five years since Rana Plaza, the most deadly accident in the history of garment manufacturing took place, and the need for consumers, brands, and unions to assume responsibility to improve the lives of millions of workers remains. Let us renew our commitment, personally and collectively, to live in solidarity with those who make our clothes.
December 12, 2017
Rosaline Costa has worked at the office of the Justice, Peace and Human Rights under the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh for 30 years, from June 1986 up to the date she left Bangladesh in early July 2016. The Commission’s working area was not only in Bangladesh but South and South-East Asia also. During this time, Rosaline worked extensively for women garment workers, on issues of child labor, and on behalf of religious and ethnic minorities.
A guest post from Rosaline Costa
The blessings of Pope Francis for Bangladesh is a special grace today not only for the Catholic Christian community but as a whole for the people of the country. His presence has been so important today in my opinion because the country has been going through several important and long-term crises – political unrest and power games, human rights violations for the religious minorities, a huge influx of Rohingya refugees, the plight of garment workers, poverty, and, worst of all, the rapid growth of Islamic extremism. Ordinary people, the majority of a population of 160 million people, are helpless. At this very critical time the Pope’s visit to Bangladesh, his speeches, the Holy Mass, meeting with inter-religious groups and the Rohingya representatives have brought a kind of hope, relaxation and peace among people.
In three days of addresses delivered in Bangladesh, never did Pope Francis assert that his visit was only for the Christians, but for all people. He spoke in favor of dialogue, peaceful living together, patience, cooperation, and unity in diverse religious beliefs. The following quotation struck me very deeply:
The words we have heard, but also the songs and dances, that had enlivened our assembly, have spoken to us eloquently of the yearning for harmony, fraternity and peace embodied in the teachings of the world’s religions. May our meeting this afternoon be a clear sign of the efforts of the leaders and the followers of the religions present in this country to live together in mutual respect and goodwill.
He further stressed on the cooperation among people of different faiths. He said:
It is a particularly gratifying sign of our times that believers and all people of good will feel increasingly call to cooperate in shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family. This entails more than mere tolerance. It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth. It challenges us to cultivate an openness of heart that views others as an avenue, not a barrier.
Pope Francis spoke indirectly to protect the environment, respect the workers, remembered the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, among other concerns. While speaking about the political corruption he said, “How much our world needs heart to beat strongly, to counter the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities and those who are most vulnerable.”
The Pope stressed praying for one another and empathy to preserve peace among people of different faiths. I heard of some non-Christians giving important reactions to the visit of Pope in Bangladesh. Among them, some Muslim youths expressed their heartfelt hope that the Pope’s visit will bring unity and cooperation among people.
I feel also that no other religious leader would carry as much influence as Pope Francis did in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Previously, no other religious leader was approached by wide swaths of people. Yes, the Dalai Lama is one, but I have not seen him surrounded by massive and diverse people like Pope Francis during his Papal Visit in South Asia.
I am sure this visit will bring changes among the ordinary people but I have a question in my mind how long our Catholic and Christian religious leaders and the political leaders will be able to preserve memorable events. Will they be as before, running after power, name and fame, instead of thinking for the people for whom they have been called, or will they have heart to put into practice in their own life of what Pope has said and something of the life that he leads?