The dark side of the fast fashion industry is once again in the media spotlight as the #PayUp campaign exposes major fashion brands for leaving already underpaid and underprivileged international garment workers without pay.
According to Remake, the nonprofit organization who started the petition for major brands like Topshop, Primark, and Urban Outfitters to #PayUp, over $3 billion worth of orders have been cancelled or paused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving suppliers unpaid for already-completed work.
The vast majority of these garment workers are women and children in countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Cambodia, where few legal protections for laborers exist. They made far below a fair living wage already, with a 2018 study by the Fair Labor Association finding that across 18 factories, “not a single garment worker among the more than 6,000 whose wages were studied was earning income even close to a living wage, measured against any living wage benchmark.”
Earning an average U.S. equivalent of only $95 per month, most of these garment workers have little to no savings, leaving them unable to afford the most basic human necessities with current factory closures.
Some brands, like H&M, Lululemon, Target, and Nike, have pledged to pay suppliers for all orders that were cancelled or paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others, like URBN (Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie), Fashion Nova, and Gap, have yet to share a plan for ensuring garment workers are compensated.
The #PayUp campaign is only one in a recent string of criticisms against the fast fashion industry, which was worth an estimated $35 billion in 2018. The industry has faced criticism for its environmental impact, mistreatment of employees, and lack of diversity, among other issues.
You can sign Remake’s Change.org petition here.