There are approximately 430 million people working in fashion.
According to a newly released 2023 Report by Business of Fashion and McKinsey Co., extreme climate events are becoming increasingly dire, leading to the lives and livelihoods of many garment workers being in danger and could potentially “put at risk an estimated $65 billion of apparel exports by 2030.”
The fashion industry accounts for 5-10% of the world’s global waste, led only by construction. Not only is the world seeing an increased negligence of human rights liberties, the world is also seeing an alarmingly widespread increase in natural disasters.
The fashion industry accounts for 5-10% of the world’s global waste
After numerous extreme weather events in 2023, companies and brands are likely to increase their resilience to climate impacts in 2024. Inaction is no longer an option: “My first job as an operator I was discriminated against for being a woman, for my color, and for not speaking English…what garment workers earn cannot cover the basic necessities and does not ensure access to nutritious food,” said Petra, a garment worker from San Antonio, TX. “The piece rate system is unfair. It has to stop.”
Unfortunately, these stories are not an anomaly.
During a 2023 press conference helmed by Remake, Shapna, a Bangladeshi sewing operator with 16 years of experience working within the garment industry, shared a first-hand account of how the current wage situation impacts her life and her family. She detailed a daily routine that starts with her prepping meals for her family at 5 am before commuting to work and returning home at midnight. The burden of support lies on her as her husband is sick so cannot work. Despite toiling such long hours, she is barely able to afford her children’s education or enough protein to nourish them.
“During Covid, I had to borrow money from local people,” Shapna recounted. “If any member of my family became sick, I had to borrow money again. I cannot repay the borrowed money while maintaining my family. It’s very difficult. I can’t afford my daily expenses with the current living wage. Sometimes we become sick because we don’t have good food. I can’t even leave my job because I have no other option. I can’t even understand how I maintain my family. If the situation prevails, we will die without adequate food.”
There are approximately 430 million people working in fashion.
This year alone several pieces of legislation focused on human and environmental rights were introduced, illustrating how meaningful legislation could change the tide of the industry, focusing on worker protections and climate justice. Over 300 businesses, 19 government officials and numerous citizens have signed on to the FABRIC Act, a federal bill designed to create dignified jobs for 100,000 American garment workers and revitalizing the nation’s $9 billion apparel industry. Remake, along with Senator Gillibrand have led the charge as we race towards concrete change for garment workers.
“I have been working in the garment industry for 20 years,” said Francisco, a garment worker from Los Angeles, CA.
“The FABRIC Act would put an end to piece rate work in American garment factories and protect garment workers, small companies, and set a standard for wages. It would stop exploitation for workers throughout the United States of America. The future will be a better future for all of us and our families.”
As thousands of American garment workers earn less than $3 an hour, with some Garment workers in Southern California earning as little as as little as $1.58 per hour due to loopholes in the fashion system, brands have been capitalizing on the industry’s lack of care for the main components driving fashion: garment workers.
“We’ve seen what can happen when brands develop processes without an end result for workers – and that is the same pitfall when it comes to due diligence,” said Theresa Haas, Director of Global Strategies, Workers United. “Standards that are supposed to protect workers rights have existed for decades, but they have been ignored because of a lack of enforcement and consequences for rights abuses.”
Remake is staunchly dedicated to creating lasting change within the fashion industry. From advocating for worker rights to protesting for climate justice, we, along with our dedicated community, understand the importance of demanding change from brands, governments, and the industry as a whole.
“What garment workers earn cannot cover the basic necessities and does not ensure access to nutritious food.” – Petra, a garment worker from San Antonio, TX
This year, we’ve not only championed garment workers, giving them a voice and platform to advocate for better working conditions and wages, we’ve also spearheaded and supported numerous campaigns and legislation that could mean the change for the fashion industry moving forward in terms of environmental justice, labor laws, and a stop to fast fashion.
LET’S ACT ON IT
“The FABRIC Act would enforce minimum wage standards, ending wage theft for the nearly 100,000 US garment workers,” says Emily Stochl. “Additionally, it introduces a multimillion dollar domestic manufacturing grant program, meant to revitalize Made in the USA apparel production.”
The FABRIC Act aims to end wage theft and the exploitation of garment workers on a federal level, while also establishing brand accountability and incentivizing the return of garment production in the U.S.
I can’t even leave my job because I have no other option. I can’t even understand how I maintain my family.” – Shapna, a Bangladeshi garment worker
Today, thousands of American garment workers earn less than $3 an hour due to loopholes in the fashion system. On September 12, 2023, 80 of Remake’s Ambassadors and partners went to Washington D.C. to change the status quo. The eager group, made up of a diverse coalition of garment workers, their children, sustainable business owners and youth advocates, spoke with 20 Senators from Florida, to California and New York about the importance of the FABRIC Act, a federal bill creating dignified jobs for 100,000 American garment workers and revitalizing the nation’s $9 billion apparel industry.
Through the work of Advocacy Day and the work done by Remake year-round, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio endorsed the bill in November 2023. “It was truly remarkable to see the Remake community come together for Advocacy Day. The collective enthusiasm was so inspiring and the sustained dedication led to Sen. Cardin endorsing the bill,” Nika Seider, Remake’s DC Community Organizer told Remake. “Through this action, U.S. garment workers were heard, seen, and honored.”
In March 2022, The LVMH Group was by far the clothing company with the highest market capitalization, at approximately $367 billion dollars according to a report by Fashion United. LVMH led brands placing over 150 billion dollars ahead of the second place company, Nike which had a market capitalization of $216 billion dollars. Other notable brands include Dior ($124 billion dollars), TJX ($79 billion dollars), Adidas ($45 billion dollars), Lululemon ($41 billion) and H&M closing out the top ten with $27 billion dollars.
“Some of the wealthiest people in the world are fashion CEOs whose wealth has been built off the backs of millions of garment workers, who are some of the most vulnerable, undervalued and underpaid people in the world,” says Liv Simpliciano, Policy and Research Manager for Fashion Revolution.
In a report released by Oxfam, it estimated that it would take just four days for a top fashion CEO to earn what a Bangladeshi woman would earn in her whole life.
In 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s Southern California offices investigated several contractors in the region’s large garment industry. The department found that 80% of the contractors were violating minimum wage and overtime laws. As a result of the investigation, the department recovered over $892,000 in back wages and damages.
Ten years after the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, the landmark Bangladesh Accord played a pivotal role in reforming the fashion industry and making it a safer, more humane place for garment workers. And the Accord has, as of 2023, expanded into Pakistan, where many more garment workers will be protected.
It estimated that it would take just four days for a top fashion CEO to earn what a Bangladeshi woman would earn in her whole life.
In July 2023 and after months of negotiations, Gap Inc. signed onto the Pakistan Accord. This came as a monumental victory for garment worker protections in Pakistan, a country where the textile and garment industry accounts for at least 6.7% of the total labor force, totaling approximately 2.2 million garment workers.
The Accord has been hugely impactful, protecting the lives of approximately 1.8 million workers in 1,700 factories across Bangladesh through facility inspections, upgrades, and safety trainings. It’s estimated that hundreds, if not thousands of lives, have been saved in Bangladesh by the Accord, which has effectively ended cycles of fires, building collapses, and other accidents that senselessly take garment makers’ lives. In Pakistan, the Accord is currently set to cover over 500 factories with approximately 800,000 workers, representing over $2 billion in export value, will be covered across Pakistan. The more brands that sign onto the Pakistan Accord, the more factories, and thus, workers, will see life-saving protections.
CAMPAIGNS ON CAMPAIGNS
Progress doesn’t happen overnight.
Remake is actively engaged in campaigns calling for various fashion brands to sign on to life-changing policy efforts such as the Pakistan Accord, including what Remake is calling the Dirty Dozen: Amazon, ASDA, Columbia Sportswear (Columbia, SOREL, Mountain Hardwear and prAna), Decathlon, IKEA, JCPenney, Kontoor Brands (Lee, Wrangler and Rock & Republic), Target, Tom Tailor, URBN (Free People, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie), Walmart and Levi’s.
Most recently, Levi’s has been at the forefront of Remake’s efforts with 20 known suppliers in Pakistan. The brand, known for its iconic blue jeans and classic American aesthetic, has consistently declined signing onto the Pakistan Accord.
In June 2023, Remake launched into a third week of action to motivate Levi’s to sign the most recent version of the Accord, which expanded to include supply chains in Pakistan. Much of this action took place within the digital space, with an online campaign led by Ekō, an online community working to hold growing corporations responsible.
Similarly, in 2023 Remake also took on one of the largest sportswear brands: Nike.
Nike owes 4,644 Thai and Cambodian garment workers $2.2 million in stolen wages and benefits — and these garment workers have been waiting three years for it while Nike continues to rake in high profits.
In July 2020, garment manufacturer, Ramatex Group, closed one of their Cambodian factories without notifying their garment workers in a timely manner or presenting a legally valid reason for the sudden closure. Ramatex’s main buyer, Nike, was producing in this factory at the time of its shutdown. Despite Nike’s own Code of Conduct, the profitable sportswear giant has refused to come forward to pay the legally owed $1.4 million in severance and damages to the 1,284 garment workers who lost their jobs.
Nike owes 4,644 Thai and Cambodian garment workers $2.2 million in stolen wages and benefits
From May to October 2020, Hong Seng Knitting garment factory (who sews university logo apparel for Nike) misled garment workers into signing a falsified form stating that they wanted to take voluntary unpaid leave during the pandemic. Since then, garment workers have come forward stating that they were pressured into signing these forms and met with retaliation by factory management if they resisted. $800,000 in stolen wages is owed to over 3,300 garment workers.
Remake joined over 50 human rights organizations that have called on Nike to fix this for three years. Through these campaigns Remake continues to fight for garment workers and fair wages, challenging big brands to do better to make a more equitable fashion industry.
CHECK THE STATS
Demanding equity from industry titans can feel like an uphill battle, but our fight is not for naught.
Here is a recap of just some of the amazing work the Remake community was able to accomplish in 2023:
5,700+ #NoNewClothes pledge participants
1,195,000+ kg of CO2 emissions prevented
300+ endorsers + 19 Senate & House Co-sponsors for the FABRIC Act
1.8 million+ garment workers protected through the passage of the International Accord
1800+ Remake Ambassadors
200+ events hosted
5000+ students equipped with the resources needed to grow into their change-making power.
We envision a world where workers are compensated fairly. Where they can exercise their rights and be safe at work. Where “fashion” is no longer synonymous with rampant violations of workers’ rights. More than ever, we need citizens to join us in raising our voices to our policy makers. The future we aspire for is possible. We hope you will join us!
Want to learn more about how you can help advocate for garment workers? Stay Up to Date With All Of Our Campaigns