What is THE #PAYUP CAMPAIGN?
The #PayUp campaign formed in March 2020 out of the fashion industry’s catastrophic decision to refuse payment to garment workers for completed clothing orders heading into the Covid-19 pandemic. When retail stores were shuttered and fashion sales were in free-fall in the early days of the pandemic, countless global brands refused to pay for an estimated $40 billion worth of finished goods that garment workers had spent countless hours sewing, according to research by the Worker Rights Consortium and PennState Center for Global Workers’ Rights Director Mark Anner. Millions of garment workers were laid off without pay as a direct result of the cancellations, sending them into the gravest economic crisis of our lifetimes without their paychecks or any savings.
WHAT BRANDS REFUSED TO PAY THEIR GARMENT WORKERS?
The fashion industry made the nearly universal decision to cancel orders at the start of the pandemic. We may never know the full extent of the cancellations, but in terms of companies that were known to cancel large volumes of orders worth more than $25 million in Bangladesh alone include Bestseller, C&A, H&M, Inditex (Zara), JC Penney, Kohl’s, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Target, VF Corporation and Walmart, according to research by the Workers Rights Consortium and the PennState Center for Global Workers Rights. For a more complete list of brands implicated, see the Workers Rights Consortium Covid-19 Tracker.
“In terms of its direct financial impact on workers, [#PayUp] is probably the most successful campaign on worker rights in the apparel supply chain ever.” – Scott Nova, Worker Rights Consortium
Who ORGANIZED the #PAYUP campaign?
#PayUp was organized by a global coalition of garment workers, labor unions, NGOs and civil society groups, and fashion activists. Remake spearheaded the demand that brands #PayUp the billions they owe, and joined forces with NGO allies like Clean Clothes Campaign, United Students Against Sweatshops, and the Worker Rights Consortium to hold apparel brands accountable and support garment workers’ rights. Some of the others key organizers and participants include Awaj Foundation, Stand Up Lanka, Labour Behind the Label, Union for Concerned Researchers in Fashion, and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The campaign was built around the research of Workers Rights Consortium and Mark Anner at the PennState Center for Global Workers Rights. Many of these groups met weekly throughout the entirety of the campaign.
WHAT WAS THE IMPACT OF the #PAYUP campaign?
The #PayUp campaign recouped approximately $22 billion in money owed to garment factories and workers from 25 major clothing brands, including Zara, Gap Inc., H&M, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Target, and Next. (See the full list of committed brands here.). Strengthened by the power of social media, the #PayUp campaign went viral over the summer of 2020, with citizens all around the world using the #PayUp hashtag and over a quarter million people signing Remake’s #PayUp petition.
The impact of the #PayUp campaign has been felt around the world, influencing the way labor rights campaigns are organized and sparing jobs and livelihoods in the midst of the pandemic. “The #PayUp campaign made people realize the issues and helped to get workers emergency relief so their families could survive,” says Nazma Akter of Bangladeshi garment worker group Awaj Foundation. Without the power of the #PayUp campaign, it’s estimated that millions of workers would have lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic. According to research by the WRC and CGWR, the reinstated orders likely resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars reaching garment workers who otherwise would not have been paid.
As Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Workers Rights Consortium told Atmos magazine: “There’s no question that the campaign has, at least for now, averted millions of lost jobs in the industry and hundreds of millions of dollars in wages for workers… And in terms of its direct financial impact on workers, [#PayUp] is probably the most successful campaign on worker rights in the apparel supply chain ever.”
ARE THERE BRANDS THAT NEVER AGREED TO #PAYUP?
Yes, there are at least two dozen brands who never agreed to #PayUp in full. According to the Worker Rights Consortium Covid-19 Tracker, they include:
- American Eagle Outfitters (American Eagle, Aerie) for more info
- Arcadia (Topshop)
- Bestseller for more info
- Camaïeu for more info
- Edinburgh Woolen Mill (Bonmarché, Peacocks)
- Hema for more info
- Kohl’s for more info
- Li & Fung/Global Brands Group
- Oscar de la Renta
- Ross Stores for more info
- Schulz Fashion (Colloseum) for more info
- The Children’s Place
- TJX (T.J. Maxx, Marshalls) for more info
- Urban Outfitters (Anthropologie) for more info
- Walmart (Asda) for more info
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE the #PAYUP campaign CONCLUDED?
Building on the #PayUp victory and out of acknowledgement that there is much work to be done to hold brands accountable, a global movement for reform has continued to organize and win. You can read about it here.
Without the power of the #PayUp campaign, it’s estimated that millions of workers would have lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic. According to research by the WRC and CGWR, the reinstated orders likely resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars reaching garment workers who otherwise would not have been paid.