The Clean Clothes Campaign’s United Kingdom-based nonprofit, Labour Behind the Label, is taking action to improve the deplorable work conditions found in factories across the world and provide support to workers in the garment industry. The organization promotes ethical clothing and collaborates with brands and trade unions to push for the reform of systemic problems found in the clothing business.
Change Your Shoes and Labor Rights
Recently, Labour Behind the Label held campaigns to uphold worker rights, such as the “Change Your Shoes” campaign, a project that called for shoe brands to provide greater transparency in their production process. Through its tireless efforts, Labour Behind the Label is working to amend the garment industry, combatting low wages, unsafe working conditions and abusive treatment, thereby holding brands accountable.
According to the organization, Labour Behind the Label is the United Kingdom’s only campaign group dedicated solely to labor rights in the worldwide garment industry. Past activity has included urging retailers to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, pushing for living wages for Cambodian garment workers, and bringing victims of the Rana Plaza factory disaster compensation.
Clean Clothes and Living Wages
The nonprofit was founded in 2001 as part of the Clean Clothes Campaign, the garment industry’s most prominent alliance of labor unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Labour Behind the Label’s endeavors include raising awareness and putting pressure on companies to support workers’ rights, as well as lobbying governments and policymakers.
The group is currently advancing programs such as the “Living Wage” campaign, working with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance to demand a living wage in Asian garment producing countries. The campaign would help provide garment workers, 80 percent of whom are women, with living wages to cover their basic needs.
Worker Safety and the Shoe Industry
The organization is also holding a “Worker Safety” campaign,” providing compensation for victims of Pakistan’s 2012 Ali Enterprises factory fire. In addition, it has led actions such as a weeklong initiative to lobby brands to ban dangerous practices such as the sandblasting of jeans.
Labour Behind the Label launched the “Change Your Shoes” campaign to look specifically at the operations of the shoe industry. Twenty-four billion pairs of shoes were produced in the year 2013, with 87 percent of them manufactured in Asia. The program has called upon leading shoe brands in the United Kingdom, as well as brands such as Prada, Birkenstock and Camper, to provide information pertaining to their production processes.
The program also asks members of the shoe industry to publish the names and addresses of suppliers, report on steps taken to move away from dangerous chemicals and demonstrate that the companies are providing fair wages and safe working conditions. The campaign has led research and investigations into the manufacturing processes of major shoe brands, observing that the system involves high-intensity labor, short deadlines and worsening living conditions of exploited workers.
Ending Fear and Silence
In many countries, there is a climate of fear and silence in the production chains. The project acknowledges that some companies, such as Nike and Adidas, have already begun to publish information about its processes and will hand its petition to brands to promote change.
Through projects such as the “Change Your Shoes” campaign, Labour Behind the Label is taking action to bring about fairer conditions in the garment industry worldwide. The organization is working to hold companies more accountable and create transparency in the industry, demanding living wages and calling for safer work environments in the clothing manufacturing business.
Ongoing Positive Change and Accountability
Labour Behind the Label’s activism has led to the creation of “codes of conduct” for companies, as well as “ethical trading” initiatives, which have promoted the annual inspection of factories. Labour Behind the Label acknowledges that sweatshop abuses are an elusive and deeply ingrained problem, as there are no easy solutions. But through its advocacy, campaigning, and research, Labour Behind the Label is taking steps to galvanize change in the clothing business on an international scale.
– Shira Laucharoen