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.
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 $24 million in legally owed severance to more than 11,000 former employees of shuttered factories around the world.
Wage Theft during Covid-19
Hundreds of thousands of garment workers across the globe lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recent survey, 70% of garment workers reported that they had not received their full legally mandated severance pay, and 40% reported they received none of the severance pay they were legally owed. Only 24% of the terminated workers reported receiving the full mandated amount. Virtually all brands maintain labor rights codes of conduct that require payment of legally mandated benefits and commit the brand to enforce this through factory monitoring. The nonpayment of severance that workers reported represents a failure by brands to enforce their own standards, with severe consequences for affected workers and their families.