Fashion Workers Deserve Fair Pay– And You Can Help

WRITTEN BY Hannah Ernst

July 7, 2023

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Fashion Workers Deserve Fair Pay– And You Can Help

Hannah Ernst

7 Jul, 2023

This article delves into the rights of fashion workers, what the Good Clothes, Fair Pay proposal looks like, and why such legislation is so crucial.

Image and research credit: @atmos

Unfortunately, a living wage is seen as a luxury for many garment workers. However, there is a campaign demanding living wage legislation in the fashion industry that could quickly drive change.

Image and research credit: @atmos

Currently, only 93% of all fashion brands globally pay their garment workers a living wage. There has yet to be a consensus on the definition of a living wage or an exact monetary amount. However, the United Nations describes a living wage as “a wage that enables workers and their families to meet their basic needs” in a standard work week of no more than 48 hours. That means it does not only entail the bare minimum to survive, but it should also include access to clean water, nutrition, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and a small amount of savings – the basics of a decent human life.

Image and research credit: @atmos

The progress made on wage issues is insufficient at best as the gap between legal minimum wages and living wages increases globally, rising to 72% in countries like China and India. Since the first major wake-up call, the collapse of the factory building Rana Plaza in 2013 where 1,138 fast fashion workers died, only little has changed. As a response to the collapse, global unions installed an international and legally binding agreement, now in effect as the International Accord. Some of the signatories include fast fashion giants Adidas, Asos, H&M, Zara, and Zalando. They comply with regular workplace safety inspections by professionals and the possibility for workers to raise safety concerns through an independent complaints mechanism. While this accord is crucial to ensure workplace safety, it does not address fair pay, collective bargaining agreements, or abuse and harassment in factories.

Image and research credit: @atmos

Many fashion brands choose not to comply with labour rights agreements, often referring to the brand’s own non-binding codes of conduct. While it seems like one of the biggest trends among corporations to hop on the woke train and claim their support for empowering minorities, the silence is loud when it comes to disclosing ethnicity pay gaps in their own operations, with 97% of companies choosing to stay silent. Moreover, only 13% of fashion brands disclose whether their factories have trade unions and 94% of companies neglect to provide information on the prevalence of gender-based labour violations.

Image and research credit: @atmos

Isn’t it somewhat ironic that fashion is an industry mainly catering to the needs of women, yet its workforce is primarily made up of women that are barely surviving? Societal issues like environmentalism, sexism, and racism are closely interconnected. That’s why Fashion Revolution decided to launch the Good Clothes Fair Pay campaign demanding living wage legislation across the garment, textile, and footwear sector.

Image and research credit: @atmos

Good Clothes, Fair Pay is a so-called European Citizen’s Initiative, meaning it is a petition open to all EU citizens where they can call directly on the European Commission to propose legislation in an area of EU competence. If they collect one million signatures by July 19th 2023, their proposal will go directly to the European Commission and has to be discussed – currently, they count a little over 200,000 signatures. If passed, this is possibly one of the biggest developments in the history of fashion workers as the legislation concerns every brand selling their products in the EU, regardless of whether they are based in the EU or not.

Image and research credit: @atmos

The proposal calls on brands and retailers to implement, monitor, and publicly disclose time-bound targets to close the gap between actual and living wages, putting special emphasis on vulnerable groups such as women and migrant workers. Another crucial aspect is that brands would have to report on due diligence along their entire supply chains from the raw material stage of sourcing to manufacturing, cutting, sewing, dyeing, transporting, spinning, knitting, laundering, and also the slaughtering of animals used for fashion. Textile supply chains tend to remain concealed, particularly at the raw material stage, which makes legislation controlling the entire supply chain so crucial.

Image and research credit: @atmos

Ultimately, transparency is key to holding brands accountable for their actions and driving change. It seems that social sustainability is often neglected against environmental issues. However, as the disclosure of environmental figures has significantly increased over the last years, the hope remains that our persistence in demanding new policies and asking corporations about who made our clothes can actually change something. If you have a minute, please consider taking a look at the Good Clothes, Fair Pay petition and sign your name by July 19th to establish living wages as a human right rather than a luxury.

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