July 07, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
Benny Kuruvilla of Newsclick spoke with trade unionist Anannya Bhattacharjee after the recent International Labor Organization conference. Bhattcharjee explains the campaign of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance that aims to hold global corporations accountable for the payment of a living wage in the garment industry.
Listen to this interview for a perspective from workers in Asia. We at The Human thread aim to act in solidarity with the just demands of workers represented by Bhattacharjee.
June 06, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
On Monday, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance released a significant report entitled “Precarious Work in the Walmart Global Value Chain.” It is the latest in a series of reports on the maritime industry, GAP, and H & M. The reports drew the attention of The New York Times under the headline: “Retailers Like H&M and Walmart Fall Short of Pledges to Overseas Workers.”
Coverage also includes:
Simply put, the investigations call into question the glossy reports from retailers, like Walmart, who tout items like “Women’s Economic Empowerment” in their annual Global Responsibility Report.
The Asia Floor Wage report is no mere passing fancy. It is the result of intense labor:
This report presents new research on violations of international labour standards in Walmart garment supplier factories. Information was collected through interviews and focus group discussions including 344 workers engaged in Walmart supply chains in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India; and an in-depth case study, spanning 8 months, of working conditions in an Indonesian Walmart supplier employing 3,800 Indonesian contract workers. (p. 4)
From the report, The New York Times article (cited above) draws the following claims:
A series of new reports by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of trade unions and other research and advocacy groups, has put a new spotlight on the conditions. In Bangladesh, the group says, tens of thousands of workers sew garments in buildings without proper fire exits. In Indonesia, India and elsewhere, pregnant women are vulnerable to reduced wages and discrimination. In Cambodia, workers who protested for an extra $20 a month were shot and killed.
The flurry of reports from Asia Floor Wage are in the run up to the annual International Labour Conference, beginning this week, of the International Labour Organization, an arm of the United Nations. Important international conventions and norms around labor, supply chains, and ethics hang in the balance.
Clearly, empty are the pledges from many retailers to improve conditions, both in safety and in wages, in Bangladesh and elsewhere since Rana Plaza. Counting on the corporations simply to do the right thing is not enough. The body count since Rana Plaza gives evidence to that. The lives of these workers are worth more than our having cheap racks of clothes. What are you going to do about it? Start by taking the St. Vincent Pledge.
May 05, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
On Sunday, British tabloid newspaper The Sun described the Sri Lankan garment workers who make Beyoncé’s new Ivy Park apparel line as “sweatshop ‘slaves'” earning just 64 cents an hour. The Sun‘s reporters visited “poverty-stricken seamstresses” at the MAS Holdings factory in Sri Lanka, which produces the clothes. A sewing machine operator said that she was unable to survive on her basic wage of 18,500 rupees a month ($126). The newspaper claimed on average seamstresses earn $6.23 a day, although acknowledging that workers at the factory were still being paid roughly double the legal minimum wage of 13,500 rupees a month. The full article can be found here. Teen Vogue, while examining the criticism of Beyoncé, noted that Ivy Park is not the only apparel line to face abuse claims.
The justifications made by Beyoncé and Ivy Park sound a lot like her 2007 hit “Beautiful Liar”:
While Beyoncé’s Ivy Park line markets independence and empowerment for women, it deprives the women who make the wardrobe their freedom and dignity. Paid between $116 and $136 a month, the Teen Vogue article notes that “the workers who reside on the premises are locked into their living spaces at night. They must abide by curfews, and keep movement to a minimum.” Sadly, that is the industry norm, not the exception.
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an alliance led by trade unions in the key garment producing countries in Asia, has teamed with The Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights and a number of other organizations, to release a report contributing new research collected through interviews with 251 workers engaged in H&M supply chains. The report, entitled, “Precarious Work in the H&M Global Value Chain,” an investigation of production conditions in H & M factories in Cambodia and India, is one in of a series of reports, entitled “Workers Voices from the Global Supply Chain: A Report to the ILO 2016.”
We can and must do better. Those who make our clothing deserve a wage that provides enough for workers and their families to live on, in dignity and safety.