The #PayUp Campaign: protecting garment workers during the pandemic.

The #PayUp Campaign: protecting garment workers during the pandemic.
Since the outbreak began in early 2020, COVID-19 has frozen economic activities in various industries around the world and caused a global economic set-back. With an unsettling financial future looming, consumers have started worrying about how they will pay their bills should the situation worsen. The new norm and consumer habit changes have resulted in a dramatic drop in apparel sales. Many retail stores are closing to lower operating expenses and to comply with social distancing regulations. Meanwhile, retailers have cancelled factory orders and refused to pay for products that are either in production or have even already been made to order. Such decisions have left global suppliers with unwanted stock and no means to pay their factory workers. It is estimated that $40 billion in unpaid contracts have forced supply companies to sack garment workers, who live hand to mouth, with no pay.

Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.

With globalization it is not only diseases that spread widely and rapidly, international businesses and their supply chains are also widely affected. The garment manufacturing industry is among the industries that have been hit the worst. Factory workers are particularly vulnerable as factories close due to government imposed lock downs and shortage of material from China. Most of the workers are women from rural areas who went to the cities seeking jobs to provide for their families. They live in shared dorms with poor conditions and limited resources to keep themselves safe. Some retail shops have promised they will keep paying their staff, but the overseas factory workers are not directly hired by the brands and are therefore not protected by the same labor laws. Campaigners are calling on brands to take responsibility for the millions of workers in their supply chains whose livelihoods are at immediate risk.

A #Payup campaign for worker’s rights

To help these workers, workers’ rights’ organization Remake has launched a #Payup campaign calling on the giant brands and retailers to pay for the orders they have already placed. The organization announced a list of brands that have cancelled their orders and requested they be decent partners and pay for the stock. To be taken off the list, these brands must pay the full amount of the orders they have already placed or paused because of the impact of COVID-19. Meanwhile, more cases highlighted by suppliers are being investigated by Remake and may be added to the list. From the initial petition that collected more than 270,000 signatures, including celebrities and online supporters, a worldwide movement has been mobilized. At least 21 brands have committed to pay in full for orders completed and in production as of July 2020. According to the organization, they expect the #PayUp campaign has unlocked $1 billion for suppliers in Bangladesh and $22 billion globally.

Payup Campaign Artwork Remake

With the success of the #Payup campaign, Remake has launched a movement to reform the fashion industry through seven actionable labor rights goals, including cancelling starvation wages, keeping workers safe, and utilizing enforceable contracts that put workers first. The organization will pressure 40 of fashion’s most influential brands and retailers to meet these demands, and track their progress. Besides signing and sharing the petition, consumers can also provide direct relief to garment makers. Remake collaborates with front line organizations for the COVID-19 relief project where 100% of the donation goes directly to food and medical care to the makers.

Payup Campaign Actionable Steps Garment Worker Protection

Could sustainable fashion be the remedy?

Both worker’s right organizations and environmental activists have constantly emphasized the impact of fast fashion on the world. Textile dyeing is the second-largest cause of water pollution worldwide and the fashion industry produces 20% of the world's wastewater. Garment workers in countries like Myanmar, Bangladash, and Cambodia work in unsafe conditions. The 2013 Rana Plaza collapse claimed over 1,000 lives and forced retailers to take their supplier working conditions more seriously. Only if consumers demand a change in the industry will retailers reevaluate their current business models.

Modern life can be environmentally harmful. In today’s world there are many consequences for every choice we make. Flying overseas, using disposable plastic utensils, and even shopping for new clothes can burden the planet. With a dynamic assortment of fast fashion products available to us, we are buying 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000. Up to 85% of all textiles end up in landfill each year. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should all live an extreme zero-waste life. If we make decisions considerately and try our best we can make a significant difference. Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want

By wearing the garment longer, buying second-hand pieces, opting for ethically made products, or taking time to go through the company’s vision and report, every small step accumulates and can make a big difference. Raising public awareness and mobilizing society to opt for a sustainable lifestyle is a never-ending movement. If consumers are aware of the consequences and conscious of their choices, we will see a fashion industry that doesn’t exploit either the environment or the underprivileged garment workers who live below the poverty line.

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