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Lesotho: Unions & women’s groups sign binding agreements with Levi's, Wrangler, Children's Place & others to combat gender-based violence in factories

Labor unions and women’s rights advocates have entered into landmark agreements with Levi Strauss, The Children’s Place, Kontoor Brands (known for Wrangler and Lee jeans), and apparel supplier Nien Hsing Textile to combat gender-based violence and harassment. These enforceable agreements condition the brands’ business with the supplier on its acceptance of a worker-led program to eliminate sexual harassment and abuse. The program features an independent complaint investigation body with the power to direct punishment on abusive managers and supervisors.

These agreements arose from an investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium, which exposed severe and extensive sexual harassment and coercion at the supplier.

Proponents say these are the first binding agreements any apparel brands have signed with worker representatives that address gender-based violence and harassment in their global supply chains. The complaint mechanism to be established is modeled after the Fair Food Program, which has been successful in eradicating sexual harassment and coercion in Florida’s agricultural fields, one of the world’s toughest labor rights environments.

Related reports and analyses on these agreements are linked below.

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Article
16 August 2019

Leading apparel brands, trade unions, and women’s rights organizations sign binding agreements to combat gender-based violence and harassment at key supplier’s factories in Lesotho

Author: Worker Rights Consortium

Civil society groups, an international apparel manufacturer, and three global brands have agreed to launch a comprehensive pilot program intended to prevent gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in garment factories in Lesotho employing more than 10,000 workers.

Five Lesotho-based trade unions and women’s rights organizations, as well as U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium, Solidarity Center and Workers United, have signed a set of unprecedented agreements with Nien Hsing Textile and Levi Strauss & Co., The Children’s Place, and Kontoor Brands to address GBVH at five factories owned and operated by Nien Hsing Textile in Lesotho.

The product of extensive negotiations after a Worker Rights Consortium investigation documented a deeply concerning pattern of abuse and harassment in Nien Hsing Textile factories in the country, the agreements reflect a shared commitment to protect the rights of workers, support economic development in Lesotho, and promote Lesotho as an apparel exporting country.

The unions and women’s rights organizations are Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), United Textile Employees (UNITE), the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), the Federation of Women Lawyers in Lesotho (FIDA) and Women and Law in Southern African Research and Education Trust-Lesotho (WLSA). Each brand agreement will operate in tandem with a separate agreement among Nien Hsing Textile and the trade unions and women’s rights organizations to establish an independent investigative organization to receive complaints of GBVH from workers, carry out investigations and assessments, identify violations of a jointly developed code of conduct and direct and enforce remedies in accordance with the Lesotho law. The program will also involve extensive worker-to-worker and management training, education, and related activities.

The Solidarity Center, the Worker Rights Consortium, and Workers United will provide technical and administrative assistance and support for the program...

Read the full post here

Article
15 August 2019

Bosses force female workers making jeans for Levis and Wrangler into sex

Author: Guardian (UK)

...Sexual harassment from managers and supervisors was so pervasive that male co-workers also routinely engaged in abusive behaviour, according to off-site interviews with 140 workers in various operations at three Nien Hsing factories, where women engaged in sewing, quality control, cutting, washing and packing.

“All of the women in my department have slept with the supervisor,” one worker told the labour rights group. “For the women, this is about survival and nothing else … If you say no, you won’t get the job, or your contract won’t get renewed.”...

Notably, the abuses were not detected by the factories’ voluntary codes of conduct or monitoring programmes, as managers put pressure on employees “to lie” to auditors, the report claims...

Lesotho is a growing player in the global textile and apparel industry, producing 26m pairs of jeans annually and employing about 38,000 people. Roughly 85% of all exports go to the US, where buyers include Gap, Reebok, Ralph Lauren, Walmart and Calvin Klein Jeanswear, according to official figures...

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Article
15 August 2019

Landmark WSR Agreement Signed in Lesotho Apparel Industry

Author: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network

The Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) Network is proud to share today’s announcement that a legally-binding WSR agreement has been signed to address long-standing issues of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the Lesotho-based suppliers of several major apparel brands.

This development represents a tremendous breakthrough for Lesotho garment workers, who have been pursuing a worker-driven approach to stop these abuses. It also represents a significant new expansion of the WSR model, which is now operative on three continents and is quickly winning recognition as the only proven effective approach for protecting workers’ fundamental human rights in global supply chains after decades of failed, corporate-led social responsibility efforts.

In the face of overwhelming odds, workers at the Nien Hsing Textile Co. in Lesotho came together to demand respect and justice in the workplace, and an end to a pervasive environment of gender-based violence. Following an investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), workers, together with labor unions, women’s rights organizations, and NGOs, drafted and negotiated an agreement to remedy and prevent such abuses, and to fundamentally shift the balance of power in their workplace...

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Article
15 August 2019

Lesotho: Brands, trade unions and women's rights organisations sign binding agreement to tackle gender-based violence

Author: Solidarity Center

"Pact Combats Gender Violence in Lesotho Factories", 15 August 2019

...Five Lesotho-based trade unions and women’s rights organizations, as well as...Worker Rights Consortium, Solidarity Center and Workers United, have signed a set of...agreements with Nien Hsing Textile and Levi Strauss & Co., The Children’s Place, and Kontoor Brands to address GBVH at five factories owned and operated by Nien Hsing Textile...

 ... Each brand agreement will operate in tandem with a separate agreement among Nien Hsing Textile and the trade unions and women’s rights organizations to establish an independent investigative organization to receive complaints of GBVH from workers, carry out investigations and assessments, identify violations of a jointly developed code of conduct and direct and enforce remedies in accordance with the Lesotho law. The program will also involve extensive worker-to-worker and management training, education, and related activities...

... the brands and the local organizations agreed to appoint representatives to serve on an Oversight Committee for the program, with equal voting power. Nien Hsing Textile and the Worker Rights Consortium will each have observer status on the Oversight Committee...

...Should there be any material breach by Nien Hsing Textile of its agreements...each brand has committed to reduce production orders until Nien Hsing returns to compliance.

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Article
15 August 2019

Report: Levi's, Wrangler, Lee Seamstresses Harassed, Abused

Author: New York Times

Women sewing blue jeans for Levi's, Wrangler, Lee and The Children's Place faced sexual harassment and gender-based violence and some were coerced into having sex with supervisors to keep their jobs in African factories, labor rights groups say.

In response to the revelations, the brands have agreed to bring in outside oversight and enforcement for more than 10,000 workers at five Lesotho factories, according to a report from the Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium released on Thursday.

The labor rights group investigated Taiwan-based Nien Hsing Textile factories in Lesotho — a poor, mountainous kingdom encircled by South Africa — after hearing from a number of sources that women who sew, sand, wash and add rivets to blue jeans and other clothes were facing gender-based violence.

Managers and supervisors forced many female workers into sexual relationships in exchange for job security or promotions, the report says. In dozens of interviews, the women described a pattern of abuse and harassment, including inappropriate touching, sexual demands and crude comments...

Read the full post here

Article
15 August 2019

Report: Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee seamstresses harassed, abused

Author: Washington Post

...In response to the revelations, the brands have agreed to bring in outside oversight and enforcement for more than 10,000 workers at five Lesotho factories, according to a report from the Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium released on Thursday.

The labor rights group investigated Taiwan-based Nien Hsing Textile factories in Lesotho — a poor, mountainous kingdom encircled by South Africa — after hearing from a number of sources that women who sew, sand, wash and add rivets to blue jeans and other clothes were facing gender-based violence.

Managers and supervisors forced many female workers into sexual relationships in exchange for job security or promotions, the report says. In dozens of interviews, the women described a pattern of abuse and harassment, including inappropriate touching, sexual demands and crude comments...

Read the full post here