WRC Annual Meeting This Wednesday

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Dear Colleague,

I want to remind you of the WRC University Caucus Meeting this Wednesday, May 6 to be held on Zoom from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. Please find here a draft agenda for the meeting.

We hope that you can participate in this meeting. Our staff will provide updates on key developments in the sector, including the massive impact of Covid-19 on global apparel supply chains and the ongoing human rights crisis in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. We are pleased to have a key worker advocate, a representative of a leading apparel firm, and the head of Bangladesh’s factory owners’ association to discuss their organizations’ efforts to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic and their views on what is needed to protect workers.  

Further details regarding the contents of the meeting, along with relevant reading material, can be found below.

Please RSVP here for the WRC University Caucus Annual Meeting (Note: this meeting is for university affiliates of the WRC).
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
1:00 p.m. ET to 4:30 p.m. ET
Information to join via Zoom will be emailed one hour before the meeting.
If you have any technical problems, please contact Kimberly Capehart

Best,

Scott Nova
Executive Director
Worker Rights Consortium
nova@workersrights.org


Background Reading  

The Impact of Covid-19  

A substantial part of the meeting will focus on the massive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on apparel supply chains and efforts to address them. In addition to the disruption to sales that you have all no doubt seen firsthand, many factories around the world have suspended or drastically reduced production, in response to loss of business, governmental lock-down policies, or both. A growing number of factories are closing permanently. Millions of garment workers are temporarily or permanently out of work and subsisting on either no income or a small aid allowance from their governments. The WRC has adopted a multi-pronged effort to respond to the impact on workers, which is detailed in this memo to affiliates. At the meeting, we will discuss our current work in these three key areas:

  • We are advocating for major brands and retailers to pay for orders produced or in progress; more information on the issue of canceled orders can be found in this report from Mark Anner of Pennsylvania State University, published in association with the WRC. 
  • We are promoting the idea of a publicly funded international plan to aid garment workers and suppliers, as detailed in this WRC white paper; this approach is gaining increasing support, but it is far from certain that will come to fruition. 
  • We are closely monitoring impacts on workers at the country and factory level. Preparation for this monitoring included researching, and providing to licensees, clear information regarding (1) factories’ legal obligations in key apparel-exporting countries regarding compensation during layoffs or furloughs and (2) best practices for infectious disease prevention in those factories that continue to operate (often producing personal protective equipment).   

We are glad to be welcoming three panelists to share their respective experiences and analysis of this crisis: globally-known worker advocate Kalpona Akter (Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity), leading factory owner Rubana Huq (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association), and experienced practitioner Michael Bride (PVH); more info on these presenters can be found here

Key Topics and Developments 

Given the abbreviated form of our meeting this year, we will focus the remainder of our presentations on brief highlights of key developments over the course of the past year.   Forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is a central and growing concern for the university community. On Wednesday, we will provide an update regarding the WRC’s work on this human rights crisis, including our engagement with licensees concerning the goal of eradicating XUAR-related forced labor from university supply chains. Our most recent memo on this topic is available here. We will also share the latest information regarding our engagement with Badger Sportswear and its supplier Hetian Taida Apparel.

We will next present several key cases from this year, including: 

  • The successful response to threats, retaliatory financial penalties, and retaliatory termination of workers seeking to exercise their associational rights at All-Sportz Apparel (Dominican Republic); 
  • Continued progress in addressing the failure to pay legally required severance, including the provision of more than four million dollars to workers at PT Kahoindah Bekasi. (The latest WRC update on this case can be found here; a National Public Radio article can be found here); and  
  • Resolution of unlawful terminations by a university logo apparel supplier in Bangladesh.     

Finally, we will provide updates on other key areas of work, notably: 

  • Continued exemplary compliance and other developments at the living wage factory Alta Gracia; 
  • The latest developments with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh; and  
  • The implementation of a ground-breaking agreement between global brands, garment workers’ unions, and women’s organizations to combat sexual harassment and gender-based violence in Lesotho.   

We will close with an opportunity for open discussion.

We hope you can join us.