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13 Jan 2022

Rachel Cernansky, Vogue Business

USA: Labour rights advocates call for stronger labour provisions & worker involvement in Fashion Act

"Deconstructing New York’s Fashion Act", 13 January 2022

A New York coalition made waves last week with the proposal of the Fashion Act, which aims to hold all major brands accountable for their environmental and social impacts…


However, a range of insiders and advocates focused on labour rights, racial justice and global equity say that…[t]he bill must be refined and strengthened, and done so with a more inclusive process than the one that led to the bill’s creation…[i]t needs stronger labour provisions and could be more ambitious in laying out a positive vision for the industry to strive for, rather than focusing on reducing harms, say critics, and it could involve garment workers and other communities impacted by fashion’s supply chain in the process of coming up with solutions for the challenges they face…

Another key question surrounding the bill is whether the transparency it requires will result in significant change, or whether companies will simply report more publicly on problems that continue to go unsolved. Critics have increasingly said that the industry’s focus on transparency has only resulted in the latter, and worry the push for due diligence legislation…will follow the same path.

“It’s a great step forward, sure — because the bar is so low,” says Céline Semaan, founder of the Slow Factory Foundation…


Ambiguity is a concern. The stipulation that brands map 50 per cent of their supply chains, for example, allows them to be selective about “which 50 per cent of their supply chain companies will choose to map — most likely the easiest and that which makes them look best,” says Semaan…


Much of the bill’s criticism stems from who was at the table when it was created.

“When I first saw it, I was excited,” says Dominique Drakeford, cofounder of Sustainable Brooklyn. However, as she looked closer, the first thing she noticed was the lack of diversity and supply chain representation in the coalition that came up with the bill…

Examples of missed opportunities, she and fellow Sustainable Brooklyn cofounder Whitney McGuire say, include the focus on enforcing minimum standards when it could seek to instead redefine those standards, and designing a Community Fund that leverages fines from non-compliance to support environmental justice projects in New York, but not remedy the communities that were directly harmed by the non-compliance…