The WRC conducts research into issues of concern in the apparel supply chain. Topics researched include the effects of wage theft on workers, the extent of violence against worker advocates in a particular country or region, and broader industry trends. These research projects are often conducted in partnership with our colleagues at our university affiliates and other research institutions.
Farce majeure: How global apparel brands are using the Covid-19 pandemic to stiff suppliers and abandon workers (2020)
This paper by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, ILAW, and the Worker Rights Consortium explores the power imbalances between brands and suppliers and their contractual manifestation. It examines the law of force majeure and related doctrines and how they apply to the current circumstances. The paper explains how brands violate their due diligence obligations through canceling orders….
Un(der)paid in the pandemic (2020)
The report “Un(der)paid in the pandemic” analyzes nonpayment of wages to garment workers during the months of March, April, and May resulting from order cancellations by apparel brands, unpaid leave, and state-sanctioned wage cuts during the Covid-19 crisis. Based on a review of news reports and information from worker organizations, we estimate that across South…
Abandoned? The Impact of Covid-19 on Workers and Businesses at the Bottom of Global Garment Supply Chains (2020)
This report, authored by Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights, in collaboration with the WRC describes the results of a survey of more than 300 garment suppliers in Bangladesh and has just reported the results. The survey found that 80 percent of apparel suppliers have been forced to slash employment as a result of buyers canceling orders—with nearly 60 percent reporting they have shut down most or all of their operations. Meanwhile, four out of five fired workers have not received the severance pay mandated by law. The survey found that almost none of the buyers had offered suppliers any financial support to help pay workers.
Co-authored by WRC executive director Scott Nova and the CCC’s Ineke Zeldenrust, this white paper explains how brands and retailers are shoring up their own finances by refusing to honor contracts with apparel suppliers, forcing suppliers to the brink of bankruptcy and causing large-scale dismissals of workers. The report calls for brands to pay suppliers what they owe them, for the swift mobilization of international financial resources to provide income support to garment workers, and for deeper reforms to address the supply chain inequities that Covid-19 is laying bare.
Banning Hope: Bangladesh Garment Workers, Seeking a Dollar an Hour Face Mass Firings, Violence, and False Arrests (2019)
The government and apparel factory owners in Bangladesh have carried out a brutal crackdown on garment workers in retaliation for largely peaceful protests against the country’s extremely low minimum wage. Since December of 2018, at least 65 workers have been arrested and subjected to baseless criminal charges, brought at the behest of factories that supply brands like H&M, Mango, and Next.
The government of Bangladesh is using proceedings before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh to prevent the Accord on Fire and Building Safety from operating, thereby putting workers’ safety at risk. A ruling on 7 April 2019 in Bangladesh’s Appellate Court could require the Accord to close its Dhaka office and operations without taking into account whether national agencies would be ready to take up the work. The government’s justification for trying to end the Accord’s work depends entirely on its claim that the government is ready to assume responsibility for the 1,688 factories under the Accord’s purview, but our research shows a shocking level of unreadiness.
“Ethiopia is a North Star”: Grim Conditions and Miserable Wages Guide Apparel Brands in their Race to the Bottom (2018)
As global brands continue their relentless quest for low-cost production locations, Ethiopia is emerging as a coveted destination. This report presents the results of an investigation of the labor rights environment in Ethiopia’s growing textile and apparel export sector. The investigation included in-depth interviews with garment workers at four export factories producing for leading brands. It reveals wages that are lower, by a substantial margin, than those in any other significant exporting country and grim working conditions that bear little resemblance to the standards the brands claim to be upholding in their supply chains.
Unholy Alliances: How Employers in El Salvador’s Garment Industry Collude with a Corrupt Labor Federation, Company Unions and Violent Gangs to Suppress Workers’ Rights (2015)
This report details how garment factories in El Salvador collude with various corrupt
and unlawful entities – from labor federations that take pay-offs from employers, to
company unions, and, in some cases, even violent street gangs – to undermine workers’
right to freedom of association in the country’s apparel industry.