As Covid-19 lockdowns took hold in March, many retailers cancelled orders, refusing payment and leaving global suppliers burdened with finished stock, an estimated $40 billion in unpaid contracts and no means to pay garment workers’ wages. After Remake’s #PayUp social media campaign recouped $22 billion of these unpaid contracts, the fashion advocacy nonprofit is launching PayUp Fashion, an actionable manifesto for the fashion industry, with garment workers taking centre stage.
The demands are organized by urgency, prioritizing the payment of unpaid contracts and securing protection for workers protesting the lack of wages or facing lay-offs. Barenblat says this is essential, after brands including Michael Kors, Zara and Levi’s were linked to factories allegedly using Covid-19 as an excuse to dismiss union-affiliated workers. As well as to “Pay Up” and “Keep Workers Safe”, brands are invited to “Go Transparent”… The fourth action, “Give Workers Center Stage”, calls for at least 50 per cent worker representation at industry events shaping the future of fashion, while “Sign Enforceable Contracts” puts legally binding, worker-centric codes of conduct in play. “Help Pass Laws” acknowledges the need for legislative reform to make widespread change possible, and “End Starvation Wages” reinforces the consequence of brands not adopting these measures…
“Brands and retailers have controlled the conversation for 25 years,” says Ayesha Barenblat, Founder of Remake and co-author of PayUp Fashion’s 7 Actions. “Enough with the incrementalism, moving furniture on the Titanic. Garment workers — predominantly women of color — are the backbone of the industry and it’s time for them to take centre stage.”
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