Garment workers, who already receive subsistence wages, are often paid even less than they are owed when their employers fail to obey minimum wage, overtime, and severance laws. By targeting areas where violations are particularly widespread, and by responding to worker complaints at individual factories, we have successfully pressed many employers around the world to start obeying wage laws, and we have helped workers win over $25 million of legally-owed back pay—worth $74 million in purchasing power in workers’ home countries.
Case Study: Haiti
Before the WRC intervened in 2012, almost all Haitian garment factories failed to pay workers the minimum wage. In fact, many were paying workers 32 percent less than the legal minimum. Most factories also cheated workers of overtime pay. This theft of workers’ already poverty-level wages left 75 percent of workers in some areas unable to afford three meals a day for their families.
The WRC’s research and advocacy led to three major apparel brands committing to both end their supplier factories’ violations and to secure $250,000 in back pay for over 2,000 workers. Since we began this work in 2012, more than 10,000 workers across Haiti have seen their wages increase by 50 percent. The WRC continues to work toward the goal of all Haitian garment workers receiving their legally-earned wages.
Workers are also often cheated out of their legally-owed severance pay, typically when owners shutter factories and abscond overnight. Because many countries where garments are made lack unemployment insurance, workers and their families depend on receiving severance pay when factories close.
Since 2010, the WRC and our allies have successfully pressed major brands like Nike, adidas, Gap, H&M, Disney, and Walmart to provide over $10 million in legally-owed severance to more than 6,000 former employees of shuttered factories around the world.