$28.6 Million in Back Pay Commitments for Indian Garment Workers

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March 2, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to inform you of further historic progress in the WRC’s efforts to correct the refusal of apparel suppliers in India, including a leading producer of university logo goods, to pay the legal minimum wage. This systematic violation deprived 400,000 workers in India’s Karnataka State of more than $58 million—the worst wage theft in the global garment industry in recent years. Here is where things stand:

  • The WRC has confirmed commitments from 14 of the region’s largest manufacturers, employing 200,000+ workers, to pay more than $28.6 million in back pay;
  • Shahi Exports, India’s largest garment exporter and a collegiate supplier to Columbia Sportswear, was the first company to commit to the WRC that it will pay all arrears; its total commitment is more than $10 million, the first tranche of which was paid last month;
  • In addition to back pay, our success in securing commitments from these employers to pay the proper minimum wage going forward will raise monthly wages by five percent for hundreds of thousands of garment workers across the state; and
  • Most of the state’s largest manufacturers, operating nearly 170 factories and supplying more than 40 top brands, have now committed to pay, including suppliers to Abercrombie & Fitch, adidas (non-collegiate apparel), Amazon, Columbia Sportswear (collegiate and non-collegiate apparel), H&M, Nike (non-collegiate apparel), Ralph Lauren, Walmart, and many others.

We are continuing to seek back pay commitments from additional suppliers, while also working with those that have committed, and their brand customers, to ensure proper follow through. This includes the logistically complex task of getting back pay to tens of thousands of workers who are owed money by factories where they are no longer employed.

It is no accident that Shahi Exports, the collegiate supplier, was the first firm to agree to remedy the violations and provide back pay. The special leverage that university codes of conduct provide helped overcome Shahi’s resistance. This set a precedent that many non-collegiate suppliers are now following, with enormous benefit for a vast number of workers.

We will keep you posted as this work proceeds.

Best,

Scott Nova and Ben Hensler