COVID-19 Devastates Fast Fashion Garment Workers by Lauren Tjoe

COVID-19 Devastates Fast Fashion Garment Workers


Photo by 
Claudio Montesano Casillas

COVID-19 has impacted all of us, whether that be for better or for worse. Every day, living out the “new normal” can be challenging. However, for many of us, our obstacles pale in comparison to the devastation that fast fashion garment workers are facing today. 

Around the world, shopping for clothes and accessories in person has either been inaccessible or avoided, therefore leaving retailers with more stock than they can easily sell. This dramatic imbalance in the supply chain has placed fast-fashion retailers in unprofitable circumstances and many have taken drastic measures to mitigate their losses. Retail giants like Primark, Kohl’s, Urban Outfitters, Top Shop and Boohoo have canceled multi-million dollar orders from their manufacturers forcing garment factories to close indefinitely and leaving thousands of garment workers without work or the paychecks they are owed. Bloomberg reports that, as of March 22, 2020, garment factories in Bangladesh have received cancellations worth around 1.5 billion dollars. Considering that most of the orders were complete and ready for distribution, families who worked for months to fill these orders and who rely on these remittances are in a critical position. Without the paycheck needed to purchase necessities such as food or rent, how are these families supposed to confront the astronomical medical costs associated with a COVID-19 contraction? It seems that, once again, the selfishness of the fast-fashion industry has placed hundreds of thousands of people’s lives in jeopardy. 

With so many people’s livelihoods stolen by the pandemic and retailer’s lack of concern for their manufacturers, trying to help in any way possible seems like an impossibly daunting task, however, there are three ways that you can help workers get paid and get back to work safely. 

1. Educate yourself and educate others

With so much happening in the world and the realm of social impact, it can be really difficult and stressful to navigate through hundreds of news stories and social media posts. So here is a list of good resources that will help explain the Garment Worker Crisis in more detail. 

Remake - Garment Worker Protests Erupt Globally to Fight Union-Busting, Forced Resignation & Lost Wages

Clean Clothes Campaign - Live-blog: How the Coronavirus Affects Garment Workers in Supply Chains

Human Rights Watch - Protecting Garment Workers During COVID-19 Crisis

Worker Rights Consortium - COVID-19 and Garment Workers

OpenDemocracy - Garment Workers are Facing a Humanitarian Crisis - But Don’t Blame COVID-19

2. Sign the Remake #PayUp Petition

3. Email Fast Fashion brands 

You can use this template to email the brands that have contributed to the unlawful termination of garment workers. Find a list of retailers here.

Dear Brand/Retailer
It has come to my attention that, due to the cancellation of your company’s orders, garment workers have been unlawfully terminated without notice or severance pay. Understandably, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on your supply chain, however, this is not the time to be abandoning your suppliers and their workers. These workers have been stripped of their livelihoods and left with little to no savings, what would happen to them if they or a family member contracted COVID-19? Therefore, I am asking you to please take accountability for your actions, honor your existing contracts, and ensure that the workers you have left without a job are fairly compensated.
Your Name
Email address
“Businesses are trying to borrow capital from workers through their wages and benefit, workers are not responsible for their employers’ business losses, and it shouldn’t be taken out of their wages and benefits.” - Eva Argueta, interviewed by Julie Kuenneke for Remake

Lauren Tjoe lives in Vancouver, Canada and is currently attending the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. She] has always been involved with philanthropic initiatives and, while working on a human rights project, found herself down a fast fashion rabbit hole. Since then, Lauren has been a passionate advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion, often making her own clothes rather than buying new!

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