The Human Thread

Tag Archives: Garment Justice

Rana Plaza and forgotten women of #MeToo

April 04, 2018

Author: editor

Category: Learn

A relative holds a picture of a missing garment worker, who was working in the Rana Plaza building when it collapsed, in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka April 24, 2013. The eight-storey block housing factories and a shopping centre collapsed on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital on Wednesday, killing more than 70 people and injuring hundreds, a government official said. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS)

A relative holds a picture of a missing garment worker, who was working in the Rana Plaza building when it collapsed, in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka April 24, 2013. The eight-storey block housing factories and a shopping centre collapsed on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital on Wednesday, killing more than 70 people and injuring hundreds, a government official said. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH – Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS)

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.

Support USAS’ Global Day of Action Against Nike

July 07, 2017

Author: editor

Category: Act

CoverNike is a brand that’s used to a lot of scrutiny. Since the 1990s, they’ve weathered multiple exposés and campaigns about the conditions under which their clothes are manufactured. But despite the hard work of workers and activists, the conditions in those factories can still be dire. Right now, in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, workers regularly suffer mass faintings, wage theft and gender-based violence in the workplace. And Nike is going to great lengths to keep that fact covered up.

Nike attempts to hide the mistreatment of its workers by not allowing independent labor rights monitors to inspect the factories where its shoes and other products are made to insure that workers are not being paid poverty wages or exposed to dangerous conditions on the job. Instead, it is only allowing monitors it hires to do inspections.

Trusting Nike is difficult when it has a long history of using sweatshop labor.

United Students Against Sweatshops is holding a Global Day of Action Against Nike, and we ask our supporters to add their voices to the call for Nike to #JustDoTheRightThing. The day of action will take place on July 29th, 2017, with actions in more than 25 cities across five continents. There are lots of ways to support, such as:

Join an Action Near You! Stand with students and community members in your city. Click on the city for details for actions taking place across the country. Actions are already planned in: New York CityWashington D.C.SeattleBoston DenverPittsburghOklahoma CityJackson, MS,  San Francisco, CA , Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Columbus, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland OR and more.

Sign a Petition to Nike! Add your name to the call for Nike to stop hiding abuses at its factories.

Share on Social Media! Click here to add your support on Facebook and Twitter.

Sample Facebook Post 1:

Don’t buy #NikeLies! Nike will have you believe they promote #equality and empower women, but continue to exploit the labor of working women inside their factories.

I support students and workers fighting back against the worst boss of all – NIKE!

Sample Facebook Post 2:

Looks like Nike is returning to it’s infamous sweatshop legacy. Since restricting independent factory inspector, the Workers Rights Consortium, Nike has pulled production from factories where workers dare speak up, most recently in Honduras where hundreds of workers lost jobs after Nike pulled from their union factory. #NikeSweatshops

Sample Tweets:

Click to Tweet: Don’t Buy #NikeLies, solidarity with Honduran Nike workers!
Click to Tweet: What does Nike have to hide, let the WRC inside! #NikeLies
Click to Tweet: Nike, #JustDoTheRightThing for workers!

USAS has loads of more good information here.

St. James, the Camino, and Garment Justice

July 07, 2017

Author: editor

Category: Uncategorized

Today, the Feast of St. James the Great brings me back to two momentous summers. Twice, once in 2010 and again in 2014, I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with my father. The first time, we walked from St. Jean Pied de Port, a bit over 500 miles, and the second time from Pamplona, perhaps closer to 450 miles, to visit the tomb of St. James, who according to tradition had journeyed to the city that now bears his name and, sccording to the same tradition, is buried in the cathedral there.

The camino teaches many lessons. My first lesson, as we began from St. Jean over the Pyrenees, was “Comienza viejo para terminar joven.” “Start old to finish young.” It was a gentle reminder that I should not expend too much energy too early in the day. Little did I know how much crossing the Pyrenees would take out of me.

Camino 2014-31

We had daily lessons in gratitude: the kind offer of a cup of cold water, warm conversations with fellow pilgrims, and gentle attention from strangers to aches and pains and blisters, as inevitably happen over such distances.  There was gratitude in simple things. Our world encourages us to gather more things, as if they will make us happy. On the camino discovers that things are not so urgent or even valuable in abundance. The best backpack for the camino is a light one. I learned to carry really only four sets of clothes– even though only two or three would be necessary. I brought one for the airplane coming and going, and three sets for the days on the camino. Washing clothes daily, a huge wardrobe in a backpack would be counter-productive.

Our modern fixation on bulging closets and rapid turnover of our fashion go against the lived experience of the Camino and, actually, against the lived experience over millennia of human existence. We really do not need as much clothing as we have, and we need not treat our clothing as disposable at the same time. Sadly, a further lesson of treating those objects as disposable is that we extend that same treatment to the nameless, faceless garment workers so distant from us who make our clothing. They, too, become disposable.

Again, St. James teaches gratitude, and, on this Feast of St. James, I wish to deepen my gratitude.


I am grateful to St. James, Santiago, brother to St. John the Evangelist. St. James, you were present at so many intimate moments in the life of Christ. You were atop that mountain when Christ was transfigured. You were near Him in the Garden of Gethsemene. You called us, in your letter, to join our faith with works, directed especially to those most poor. You were the first apostle to lay down your life. Your closeness to the Lord, your generous service, draw me and encourage me to be a more faithful disciple, and I am blessed to have now made it twice to your pray at your place of rest.

“Trabajo de hormigas” and the garment industry

July 07, 2017

Author: editor

Category: Act


As people ask how things are going with The Human Thread, my most regular reply of late has been “trabajo de hormigas.” From Spanish, quite literally, it is “ant work.” The Chileans, among whom I most often heard it said, understand it to be meticulous work, slow work. Just as ants move small objects (although large in comparison to their bodies), the advancement of dignity, decent work, just wages, and workplace safety is slow in progress, but it has dramatic results in the lives of tens of millions around the globe.

Yesterday, it was announced that Cornell university cut ties with Nike. The result of a two-year campaign by students in Cornell Organization for Labor Action, this administration decision joins Cornell with Rutgers, Georgetown, UC Santa Barbara and Northeastern. This effort began when Nike refused to allow the Workers Rights Consortium to independently monitor its factories. It is  pleasing to see Cornell University take these steps. Frankly, if other colleges and universities would stand by their values, the conditions for garment workers around the world will improve. For that matter, if we as consumers, demand better, more complete information and stand by our values, conditions will improve.

It is indeed slow, meticulous work, but we must savor the gradual growth of a movement in a genuine fashion makeover. We want a fashion makeover, not for some clothes that will be out of style in the fall, but for clothes made in justice. If we each do our part, we will achieve, together, a bold example of the “trabajo de hormigas.”

Perhaps it is worth sharing what is known as the Romero prayer.

Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along The Way

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw
*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him. For more information, visit the USCCB.