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.
There are few research studies on the labor conditions of home textile factory workers. This report aims to fill this gap and to test the supply chain labor standards of the brands that are driving the growth of Bangladesh’s home textile industry against the actual conditions of workers in the factories that produce these goods. Workers interviewed for this report revealed violations of Bangladeshi labor law and brands’ codes of conduct related to building safety, payment of wages, working hours, freedom of association, and abuse.
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.
On January 2 and 3, 2014, Cambodian security forces engaged in deadly attacks on protesting garment workers in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. The country’s military police killed at least four people and injured at least 38 by firing assault rifles at workers who were protesting outside garment factories, demanding higher wages. The deadly assault was a response to strikes and demonstrations by tens of thousands of garment factory workers calling for a wage adequate to meet their basic needs.
Garment workers in many of the leading apparel-exporting countries earn little more than subsistence wages for the long hours of labor that they perform. And in many of these countries, as this report discusses, the buying power of these wages is going down, not up.