Forced Labor Targeted In New Agreement

Apparel is one of the industries marked by forced labor in its supply chain. Some prominent members of the industry recently took steps to protect migrant workers from forced labor in their supply chains as part of an effort to implement ethical standards.

Recently, 123 apparel and footwear companies signed the AAFA/FLA Apparel & Footwear Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment. The agreement’s signatories promised to work with their supply-chain partners to combat conditions that create an environment for forced labor.

The agreement includes stipulations that no worker must pay fees to get a job. Other rules include guarantees that workers must retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement. Also, workers will be informed of the basic terms of their employment before joining the workforce, said Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association.

“Creating a more transparent supply chain has long been a focus of the apparel and footwear industry, and removing the possibility of forced labor is a major part of these efforts,” Helfenbein said.

“Not only does this commitment show that our industry does not tolerate forced labor, but it also shows our customers that we take this issue seriously and are proactively working together as an industry to initiate measures to ensure these values are respected throughout the supply chain. We hope that many other members of our community will join us in the near future.”

Sharon Waxman, president and chief executive officer of the Fair Labor Association, said that forced labor often starts out with recruitment practices that require migrant workers pay large fees to secure a job.

“With this renewed commitment to responsible recruitment, we hope to bring the power of collective action to highlight these harmful, and sometimes deceptive, practices and protect workers against forced labor in global supply chains,” she said.

Companies signing this agreement include Fair Labor Association members including Outerknown, Patagonia, Nike, Adidas, Fruit of the Loom, Gildan, Delta Galil and Under Armour. Other signatories such as Levi Strauss & Co. were already following codes of conduct for responsible supply-chain practices. Also signing the agreement were Carhartt, Eileen Fisher, Lucky Brand, Nordstrom, Perry Ellis International, Vanity Fair and Columbia Sportswear Company.