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22 Apr 2024

Jordan: Migrant worker died by suicide, allegedly after abuse, at factory supplying Under Armour, Columbia, and American Eagle; incl. co. comments

Shutterstock (purchased)

In April 2024, US sportswear companies Under Armour and Columbia were linked to reports of forced labour in a factory making their clothes, after systemic abuse and exploitation allegedly led to a worker’s death by suicide. The 2 companies launched urgent inquiries over the death of a young Bangladeshi woman at major supplier Needle Craft’s facility in Jordan. American Eagle, a major retailer with more than 1,000 stores in the US, said it also uses the site and is taking remedial action. Tureza Akter, 21, died in November 2023. An official report states she was allegedly fined many times for missing excessive targets and was abused by a supervisor hours before she died. It is also alleged that sexual harassment is widespread at the factory, that workers had their passports withheld and that workers were subjected to "dehumanising" conditions, including 16-hour days, seven days per week - and that they were misled about how much money they would make. Following Akter's death, many workers went on strike in protest.

An Under Armour spokesperson said it ‘is deeply concerned by the alarming reports out of one of our supplier factories’ and that it has initiated an urgent investigation. A spokesperson for Columbia said their company was ‘aware’ of the death and said, ‘We are also concerned about allegations regarding labour violations in the supply chain at other factories in the region. These alleged practices are prohibited by our code of conduct.’ An American Eagle spokesperson revealed the firm learned of the allegations in November and took them ‘very seriously’, saying, ‘We immediately engaged with Needle Craft and worked with the company to implement remedial actions.'

Two weeks after these allegations came to light, it was reported that UK retailers selling Under Armour and Columbia branded clothes, have asked the US companies for more information on the case. The two brands say that are awaiting the results of an independent investigation into Fine Apparel, which also makes clothes for American Eagle.

Marks and Spencer stated that the Columbia clothes it sells are not made in Jordan. Next, which stocks Under Armour and Columbia items, said it was awaiting the findings of the investigation. John Lewis and JD Sports, which sell clothes from both brands, and Harrods, which stocks Under Armour products, were also on alert for the investigation's findings. The retailers Sports Direct, Foot Asylum and Cotswold Outdoor also sell items made by the US firms but did not respond to questions from journalists about the allegations and any potential action they may take.