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.”
October 10, 2017
Yesterday, the Vatican Press Office released the program for the Apostolic Visit of His Holiness Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh (November 26 to December 2, 2017). The full calendar can be found here.
Here at The Human Thread, we have our eyes focused on this visit. Catholic News Service has a summary of the highlights of the program here. While nothing on the official calendar commits Pope Francis to speaking directly about the conditions of garment workers, he will be visiting the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Savar, the same community northwest of Dhaka where the Rana Plaza building once stood.
For obvious reasons, the ongoing Rohingya crisis will dominate the headlines, but Pope Francis’ visit to two extremely poor countries will likely elevate solidarity, care for creation, and human rights in unexpected ways.
February 02, 2017
Capuchin friar Robert Wotypka wrote the following for his parish bulletin (St Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park/Detroit MI) for Sunday, February 26th, the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Cycle A.
This poor friar was never a slave to fashion, but in the years before I joined the Saint Joseph province, when I worked in hotels and as a consultant, one could identify me as a fellow traveler. It simply wouldn’t do to check in or go to dinner in my dog-walking pants; no, it was pretty clear what togs were needed in the “right crowd and no crowding” set. Two reminisces, OK? There was the time Prince Charles came to stay at the five-star joint I worked at back in the 90s in NYC. When I saw how well his suit fit, that the buttons on his jacket sleeves actually buttoned, well, I felt – and probably looked – like the titular character in Shane shopping with the sodbusters in the general store, turning in my fringed buckskins for flannels and jeans. The other misty water-colored memory is from Hong Kong, at a Starbucks, where I often did my reports. Every patron’s entrance was like a runway show, from the door to the counter and back, and it was impressive.
Things are different now. A friar does dress to impress, at least that was the hope of Saint Francis. As our Capuchin Constitutions say, “Remembering that Saint Francis wore a penitential garment made in the shape of a cross, we, too, wear the habit as a reminder of conversion, a sign of consecration to God, and of belonging to the Order. In this way we also express our condition as lesser brothers, so that even the clothes we wear witness to poverty.” That’s voluntary poverty, to be clear, and that’s a whole other spool of thread, to be taken up in another post.
I’m needling on the topic of clothing because of today’s Gospel, Matthew Chapter 6, “The Lilies of the Field,” where Jesus urges us to depend on God and God’s generosity for needful things. It’s a call to whole body conversion that has to be life-giving, otherwise it would not have been proclaimed by the one who conquered death. Let me hem in on my point: my retreat from the fashion wars owing to lack of material, and my transition to thrift stores and other re-use modes, has been good for me and, I’d propose, good for the planet. The world grows too much cotton, a water- and pesticide-intensive crop that is heavily subsidized, and produces too much clothing, buoyed by branding and relentless ads. “Fast fashion,” the production and distribution model followed by the biggest global firms, creates involuntary poverty and immense waste. The call to embrace something different is a matter of life and death, in particular for people caught up in the clothing supply chain, as was shown in 2013 at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To learn more, please check out an initiative from my province at http://www.humanthreadcampaign.org/. Thank you.
Editor’s note: And thank you, Bro. Robert, for your reflection!