Friday 14 May 2021

5 Easy Ways You Can Support Garment Workers

Garment workers all over the world are facing multiple threats. These include the garment workers who are at the heart of the resistance against the coup in Myanmar, Uyghurs who are resisting the genocide and slave labour farming cotton, and the millions more garment workers who have been affected by the pandemic and brands refusing to pay for orders placed over a year ago. As citizens and wearers of the clothes these people make, it is key that we demonstrate our solidarity with them and put pressure on the brands and governments who mistreat them. This can often feel overwhelming and inaccessible, especially with the rhetoric that ‘we vote with our wallets’ and must therefore exclusively buy from brands that are a lot more expensive (and unaffordable to many). But as Remake founder Ayesha Barenblat has previously said, you can’t buy your way into sustainable fashion. There are so many other ways to show solidarity that don’t involve buying things.

1. Sign the Pay Up Fashion Petition

Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to show your support, signing the #PayUp petition has a huge amount of impact beyond what you see. Every time someone signs this petition, an email is sent to over 200 brand executives with the seven demands of the petition alog with any extra information about new events unfurling. This email is updated regularly so that the latest issues are consistently being brought to brands’ attention. 


The Pay Up movement has already had huge successes, including recovering over $22 billion of garment worker’s wages withheld at the beginning of the pandemic. However, there is still almost the same amount that has yet been paid, as well as a lot more to do in terms of improving working conditions, overall, pay, etc. Paying up is only the minimum a brand should be doing, and it should not be something they should be bragging about. 


Other key areas of the petition include for brands to keep their workers safe, to share their profits, give workers centre stage and help make wider change through helping pass relevant legislation across the globe. Signing this petition is one way to directly tell brands what you think of them and how they can do better. 

2. Call out brands on social media

Ooh we do love trolling unethical companies on social media. Or at least I do. There’s something so satisfying about articulately having a go at a brand on your Instagram story, and then see that they have viewed it. It’s a genuine high that they know you think they’re complete shit. 


You don’t have to do this all the time or dedicate your whole online presence to coming after fashion brands, that might be a bit much (although if that’s what you want to do, go for it!). There are also loads of different ways of doing this. You can comment on a brand’s Instagram post or reply to their tweet about their ‘sustainability’ collections asking them what exactly is sustainable about this or how much their workers are paid. These include H&M’s Conscious Collection, Primark Cares, Pretty Little Thing ‘Recycled’, or just any time an unethical brand discusses being socially conscious or environmentally friendly.


You could also write full posts about brands or issues yourself, and tag them brands in the captions or photo. This could be in relation to a specific thing they have done (or not done) or part of wider movements such as the #PayUp, #PayHer, and #ShareYourProfits campaigns. 


Another easy way to call out brands on social media is to share either a post they have shared themselves, with your response and tagging them, or to share a post by someone else about the brand and tagging them with your response. It could be something as simple as ‘do better @boohoo’, ‘@hm this is not okay’, ‘@urbanoutfitters pay your workers’, or simply just tagging the brand. If you want to follow people who regularly call out brands, I recommend following Remake, Aja Barber, Lucy of Nothing to Hide, Venetia La Manna and Oh So Ethical (and me if you don’t follow me already!). 

3. Donate to the Garment Worker Relief Fund

Not accessible for everyone, but a place you can directly support garment workers. There are many different funds supporting different groups of workers. The Garment Worker Relief Fund, for instance, was set up by Remake to provide aid during the pandemic. The money quickly goes to workers, and is currently being used to ensure workers in Bangladesh are able to buy food in the run up to Ramadan. 


The organisation Remember Who Made Them also works directly with garment workers to support them in reaction to the pandemic. Remember Who Made Them crowdfund using Patreon, so you can donate small amount every month, and it all goes towards labour rights organisations and garment worker unions. 


Even more recently, garment workers have been at the heart of the resistance against the coup in Myanmar, including organising strikes and calling for brands to take action to condemn the regime. One way to support this specific group of garment workers is to contribute to their Strike Fund


4. Educate yourself on the issues they’re affecting by

In order to effectively tackle a problem, you need to understand it. Look into the systems that oppress and exploit garment workers, whether wider systems such as capitalism, colonialism or patriarchy, or individual brands, parent companies, brand CEOs or suppliers. The fashion industry, and really ethical and sustainable production in general, is incredibly complicated. There are so many issues to consider, each affecting each other and making it incredibly difficult for anyone who wants the things they buy to have a good impact. By researching these issues, you will know how to get involved in wider movements against them and who to hold to account. Never underestimate the power of knowledge! 


There are so many resources out there for free, you won’t need to far. I recommend my Fast Fashion 101 Resource Doc, which I’m continually adding to so that it contains up to date information, as well as the Remake website, Fashion Revolution, podcasts like Pre-Loved and Remember Who Made Them, and advocates such as Aja Barber and Venetia La Manna. There are also lots of informative books out there, such as Loved Clothes Last by Orsola de Castro and Stitched Up by Tansy Hoskins

5. Honour the clothes they made


To show respect to garment workers is to show respect to their work. By respecting the clothes these workers make, by repairing them, caring for them properly, increasing their lifespan and reusing where possible, we’re not only honouring the craftsmanship and expertise of the garment workers, but also to disrupt the system which is the source of their exploitation. By caring for your clothes with intention and for a long time you are breaking the cycle of disposability which makes fast fashion, well… fast. Slowing on our consumption of clothes may not overhaul the entire capitalist system, but it’s a subtle was of rejecting consumerism and an attitude of temporariness. Honour the clothes, honour the worker. 

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa

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