May 05, 2016
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.