Garment workers are facing a humanitarian crisis – but don’t only blame COVID-19
This piece first appeared in Open Democracy on 23 June 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit and retail stores started shutting down, many global fashion brands responded by cancelling billions worth of orders. This passed the financial burden of the disruption onto the most vulnerable people at the bottom of supply chains in order to protect company profits.
And while some brands have committed to paying what they owe for goods already produced or in-production, others are wielding their power over suppliers and have refused to pay.
The impact of these decisions on the estimated 40-60 million workers employed by the global garment industry has been unprecedented, with millions of mostly women and migrant workers in the Global South left facing destitution without wages, laid off without severance, or working with reduced pay.
How did the fashion industry end up in this position, and what were the pre-existing conditions that left garment workers in danger?