Amazon, Nike, and Next: It’s Time to Pay Your Workers
Millions of textile workers worldwide are losing their jobs without compensation, or receiving even less than their normal poverty wages. Most of these workers are women. Hunger forces those who still have jobs to put their lives at risk in unsafe workplaces.
With #PayYourWorkers, we demand that Amazon, Nike, Next and all other apparel brands and retailers:
- Pay the workers who make their clothes their full wages for the duration of the pandemic;
- Make sure workers are never again left penniless if their factory goes bankrupt, by signing onto a negotiated severance guarantee fund; and
- Protect workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.
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What is this petition about?
Globally, 60 million people sew our clothes, they are paid some of the lowest wages in the world. Pre-pandemic this was a desperate situation, now it is a crisis. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, garment workers have lost at least three billion dollars in income, a figure which continues to rise. Approximately 10% of the apparel workforce may have already been laid off. Millions more are at risk of being fired and have not received their full wages for months. Of the workers who still have jobs, many work in factories without proper Covid-19 protections in place, having no choice but to risk their health each day. The vast majority of these workers are women.
Many of them report skipping meals, borrowing money to buy food, and struggling to afford vegetables or meat for their families as the pandemic’s economic crisis rages on. Garment brands must take immediate steps to ensure the workers who make their clothes are paid in full or receive the full severance money they are owed. They must give these workers back their futures. It would take the equivalent of just ten cents per t-shirt for clothing brands like Amazon, Nike and Next to make sure garment workers have the income they need to survive the pandemic, and to strengthen unemployment protections for the future. Tell brands: It’s time to #PayYourWorkers
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the deep injustices in the garment industry, now is the time for change! Sign the petition to brands and retailers and join us in campaigning for a just garment industry where people and planet take priority over profits.
Green America has joined in with over 200 NGOs and trade unions on this campaign. To read more about the campaign, go to payyourworkers.org
What are garment workers experiencing?
Hulu Garment, a sewing facility supplying Amazon, Adidas, Walmart, Macy’s, and LT Apparel Group located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, suspended its entire workforce of 1,020 workers at the beginning of March 2020.
As the end of the suspension period neared, management called workers in and told them on April 22nd that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the factory had no orders and may need to lay off workers. Management also told workers to “sign” a document with their thumb print in order to receive their pay, explaining: “you have to sign; otherwise, we cannot wire your last wage.” All Hulu Garment workers signed the document that day, without realizing that buried in the document was a sentence stating they were resigning. Management hid the word “resignation” appearing at the top of each letter by affixing the worker’s most recent payslip to cover it.
“The workers did not resign at all, but the company said the workers have resigned. The company did this to avoid paying seniority pay to the workers.”
— Ry Sithyneth, president of Independent Trade Union Federation (Khmer Times)
The day after, when it became clear to the workers that their employer had hoodwinked them into signing resignation letters in order to avoid paying $3.6 million dollars in severance, hundreds of them protested to demand reinstatement. A month later the factory reopened but at least 500 of the workers were never rehired. A year later, these workers continue to demand payment of the severance they would be legally owed if they had been fired, because they had been scammed and had not voluntarily resigned.
To learn more, visit payyourworkers.org/hulu.
In a blatant union-busting move, Global Garments, a garment factory in Chittagong, Bangladesh, supplying Amazon and Kohl’s, closed in October 2020 leaving 1,200 workers without an income.
Global Garments had been unionized since 1984; the factory-level union is part of the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF), an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union. The union and management have concluded four collective bargaining agreements in the factory and the union was collecting dues through a check-off system.
Global Garments laid off workers for a total of 79 days during March to October, paying them half their regular wages for those days. To avert permanent closure of the factory, the union has requested the factory management continue with the temporary lay-off, to safeguard the workers’ jobs and to help the factory survive. However, management rejected the union’s request and is using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to bust one of the longest established unions in the country’s garment industry.
Since 2014, Azim Group, the parent company of Global Garments, which also does business with Asda, C&A, and Zara, has gradually closed all five of its factories that were unionized.
This is not the first time that workers at Global Garments have faced repression of their basic rights. A U.S. Congressman spoke out about an earlier episode of violence inflicted by managers on workers at Global Garments, which was also covered by The New York Times in December 2014 before a resolution was reached in February 2015.
To learn more, visit payyourworkers.org/globalgarments.