July 07, 2018
Flor Molina, a survivor of modern slavery in Los Angeles who has become a champion for trafficking victims and survivor protection, has been announced as the recipient of the 2018 Fashion for Freedom Award from Free the Slaves. Her inspiring journey from sweatshop slavery to human rights activist and U.S. State Department adviser embodies exceptional dedication and impact.
The Fashion for Freedom Award was created by Free the Slaves to honor changemakers working in ethical fashion and slavery eradication. The honor recognizes one person advancing those fields through creative and effective methods. Through her activism and advocacy, Molina embodies the purpose of the award.
Molina speaks for those affected by the atrocity of sweatshop slavery in the garment industry. Trafficked herself from Mexico to the U.S. in 2001, she was forced to work in a garment factory in Los Angeles. After Molina’s child died in Mexico because she could not afford medical expenses, she was “an easy target” for her trafficker, she says.
Forced to work 18 hour days for more than a month, Molina convinced her trafficker to allow her leave the factory to attend church. She never went back. The FBI began an investigation and connected Molina with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), a nonprofit that provides comprehensive, life-changing services to survivors and advocates for groundbreaking policies and legislation.
Since her escape, Molina’s amazing work advocating for others highlights those who have been affected by labor trafficking. “The media covers a lot about sex slavery but doesn’t talk about the labor side. I’m eager to raise awareness about labor trafficking because I am a labor trafficking survivor,” Molina says.
In 2012, alongside a number of anti-slavery organizations, Molina advocated for creation of the California Supply Chain Transparency Act. Under the law, manufacturers and retailers must disclose efforts they have taken to ensure their supply chains are slavery free. She recalled that most businesses were wary about supporting the concept until hearing her personal story. This underscores the vital importance of survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement.
In 2015, Molina was appointed by President Barack Obama to America’s first-ever U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. During her two-year term, Molina provided detailed recommendations to the president and federal agencies to strengthen U.S. policy and programs to combat human trafficking at home and abroad.
“As a survivor, advocate, activist, expert – and so much more – Flor has been a champion for the conscious consumerism movement for many years now,” Free the Slaves Fashion for Freedom coordinator Allie Gardner said. “She’s an inspiration and a true leader, and those of us fighting for a more ethical fashion industry can learn a lot from her.”
Free the Slaves will formally present the Fashion for Freedom award to Molina July 28 at the Fashion for Freedom Event in New York, where she will have the opportunity to address the event’s guests and visiting journalists. When asked what she plans to tell them, Molina said: “I want everyone to know that human trafficking exists in all industries, including the garment industry. We, as consumers, can and should be part of the solution.”
Molina’s story is recounted in a number of media outlets:
Free the Slaves will formally present the Fashion for Freedom award to Molina July 28 at the Fashion for Freedom Event in New York, where she will have the opportunity to address the event’s guests and visiting journalists.
Learn more: www.ftsfashionforfreedom.com
(Much of the above content was drawn from Free the Slaves’ press release.)
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.
January 01, 2018
Statement endorsed by 147 investors representing $3.7 trillion appeals to global brands to recommit to three-year extension to fulfill Accord’s mandate to remediate fire and safety violations in apparel sector.
Members of the Bangladesh Investor Initiative issued a statement today calling on companies sourcing from the Bangladesh apparel sector to renew their commitment to protect worker health and safety by endorsing the three-year extension of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord).
The investors, including Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment and its members, say additional time is needed to complete the remediation plans and worker training indicated by audits at the over 1,600 factories covered by the Accord. The statement will accompany letters being sent to the 160 companies that have not yet become signatories to the three-year extension of the Accord, urging them to participate.
The investors are part of the Bangladesh Investor Initiative organized by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to press brands and retailers sourcing in Bangladesh to join the Accord and remediate human rights risks in their supply chains. The statement was endorsed by 147 institutional investors that collectively represent $3.7 trillion in managed assets.
Said Henrike Kulmann of Allianz Global Investors GmbH, “The new agreement between global trade unions and companies ensures that the industry continues to remediate safety issues found in garment factories and build effective worker safety committees. They are an important component to mitigating risks to workers and supply chain disruption as well as reputational risks to global brands sourcing in Bangladesh. We call on all companies sourcing from Bangladesh to become Accord signatories to mitigate these serious human rights and business risks.”
For the 1,600 factories have been inspected under the Accord, 82 percent of the identified safety issues have been fixed, the majority of them electrical. “Investors have been particularly pleased to see that, in addition to fixing specific problems, the Accord has worked to address the systemic issues that led to disasters like Rana Plaza,” said Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, “It is critical to ensure that future safety problems are detected before they become life-threatening events. The detailed comprehensive work achieved by the Accord is a positive signal to investors that safety risks are being carefully and sustainably managed.”
The investor statement recommends brands undertake the following:
“To date, only 60 of the 220 signatories of the Accord have signed the new agreement to extend the program until May 2021,” stated David Schilling, senior program director of ICCR. “While much has been achieved in making garment factories in Bangladesh safer, there is more to be done, including the establishment of worker safety committees in each factory. The success of the Accord to date is built on the unprecedented collective action of brands and trade unions. Continued solidarity is needed to finish the job and prevent hard-earned gains from disappearing.”
August 08, 2016
This week, I saw a fascinating article from The Sourcing Journal. The Sourcing Journal describes itself as “the premiere trade publication for apparel and textile executives focused on sourcing and manufacturing.” The founder and CEO, Edward Hertzman, has deep experience in the supply chain for the apparel industry. His article, entitled “Unsustainable Sourcing: Why Chasing Cheap is About to Get Costly,” and the concerns he raises, complements many of our concerns here at The Human Thread. Follow the link and read the article.
Essentially, Hertzman’s argument is that the apparel industry cannot afford to continue on the road it has trod. From a business standpoint, the apparel industry is no longer viable. Today, underscoring his point, Macy’s announced that it will close 100 stores in the new year. The viability problems create an additional layer of problems. The industry, the race to the bottom, takes shortcuts to reduce costs. In Hertzman’s words:
The challenge then becomes accommodating such a price reduction in an ethical and profitable way, which some have been unable to do. So, the question becomes: Are we encouraging deceptive practices?
Retailers have also created a system which rewards wholesalers who cheat.
This is a don’t ask, don’t tell problem of the industry. As long as stadiums were packed, no one cared if home runs were helped by baseball players who took steroids. It’s not so different in our industry.
The problem is that, unlike tainted baseball statistics and the steroid-using players suffering the health consequences, the garment industry has consequences for tens of millions of factory workers across Asia and Latin America and nearly five million employees for U.S. retailers. And those are just some of the costs. In addition to unsafe factories, miserable wages, and human trafficking, cutting corners in the creation of apparel causes irreparable damage to the environment as the second largest contributor to global carbon emissions and the reckless disposal of chemicals used in the process.
Leaders in supply chain work, like Mr. Hertzman, see that there is a problem. Retailers see that there is a problem. The factory owners see that there is a problem. The unions and garment workers see that there is a problem. Governments and non-governmental organizations see that there is a problem.
Sadly, most consumers only see sales and discounted garments without seeing the costs.
What will it take for us to come together to make necessary changes?