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A guide to clothing brands and the way their garment workers are treated


Milosz Maslanka | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 09/24/19

Inditex. The world’s largest apparel company, which produces brands such as Zara, says that 3,532 factories are paying a living wage. That would be 70% of its factories. But the corporation gave no benchmark to measure this by and did not clarify the methodology behind the figure, according to CCC.

Levi Strauss & Co. The iconic jeans brand did not respond to CCC’s survey. Levi’s is “one of three companies in this study who have not even included wording about wages being enough to meet workers’ basic needs in their policies,” the organization commented.

Nike. The sports brand’s work promoting methods to improve wages with suppliers is not using any benchmarks to measure a living wage, according to the CCC. “Passing all the responsibility on to suppliers to improve pay systems won’t work, when global brands control the economics of supply chains.”

Nike spokesman Matthew Kneller told Aleteia, “Nike’s Code of Conduct requires our suppliers to pay their employees at least the local minimum wage or prevailing wage (whichever is higher).”

Primark. The Irish company has joined the ACT initiative (Action Collaboration Transformation) and is engaging with a group of brands looking to establish national level collective bargaining in some supplier countries, says CCC. Primark is “unable to show that any of the workers making their clothes are being paid a living wage,” the organization says.

Puma. This German company says that all its suppliers are “contractually bound to pay a fair wage as defined in our Code of Conduct.” But the CCC says there is no evidence they have any clear strategy for making this a reality.

PVH. The American company that brings us Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, IZOD, ARROW, and Speedo says it follows the FLA’s Fair Compensation Work Plan and is working towards fair compensation.

But CCC doubts that ACT has the potential to bridge the gap between wages paid and living wage levels.

Tchibo. “Our central approach is the ACT Initiative on Living Wages,” Tchibo says. “It aims at industry-wide compulsory wage levels to be set through consecutive collective bargaining between local/national trade unions and employer associations.”

CCC says it got a similar response from Tchibo when they did the first Tailored Wages study in 2013. “They were unable then, and they are unable now, to report any progress on living wages being paid to workers in their supply chain.”

Sandra Coy, a spokeswoman for the Hamburg, Germany-based company, told Aleteia that the criticism that the wages paid are not living wages “is correct.”

“And it is true that international coordination must be accelerated,” Coy said. “This is a systemic, widespread problem (as pointed out in the report as well), and it calls for a systemic solution.”

Under Armour. The American company says it is collaborating with the FLA to advance the organization’s Fair Compensation Strategy. CCC says Under Armour should “consider negotiating and signing enforceable and legally-binding agreements with worker representatives that deliver a living wage, and commit brands to pay significantly higher prices to cover the cost of living for workers’ families.”

Zalando. The Berlin-based company that produces Pier One and other brands says it has signed the Memorandum of Understanding of IndustriALL Global Union and ACT. “With this collaboration we are extending our efforts on fair working conditions for Zalando employees and the people working in our supply chain.”

“Despite signing up to the ACT initiative via its brand zLabels, Zalando makes no mention in its supplier code that wages must be enough to meet workers’ basic needs,” CCC says.

There are alternatives to the big-name brands. Two of them are Catholic Relief Services and Goods of Conscience.

CRS, the overseas relief agency of the Catholic Church in the United States, has an Ethical Trade Program that vets companies against several criteria.

“The criteria includes paying a fair wage to workers and a fair price to suppliers in the local context, promoting environmental stewardship throughout its operations, supporting the communities where products are sourced,” said Simone Blanchard, Manager for CRS’ Mission and Mobilization. “Companies must also have a third party certification or system to verify that their operations are ethical. We also look for companies that are in line with Catholic Social Teaching. Unfortunately there are several companies who treat workers and the environment fairly but they support abortion, access to birth control, euthanasia or other social issues that are in opposition to Church teaching. Part of our vetting process includes a thorough on-line search as well as meetings with the CEO or Marketing Director.”

CRS’s ethical shopping guide also includes coffee, chocolate and jewelry.

Goods of Conscience, a nonprofit company founded by Catholic priest Andrew O’Connor, uses organic cotton from Guatemala in clothing lines designed by Fr. O’Connor himself.

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