What have Union League members been doing in 2017? Here's our 2017 Year in Review!
But First: TAKE ACTION! - Bangalore, India:
Sign & share Avery Dennison workers' petition to call on brands to ensure their rights are respected! On Monday, December 18th, Avery Dennison workers in Bangalore, India refused food and went on a hunger strike in their factory, taking action to resist anti-worker mistreatment by management! Workers in the factory, organized with League member Garment and Textile Workers' Union (GATWU), took action to protest conditions in their factory owned by Avery Dennison, which supplies hangtags for brands such as H&M, Adidas, Levi's, Timberland, and many others. They are now on Day 9 of their hunger strike and need our support! Take action and call on the brands whose profits are made by these workers to do the right thing!
Now, on to our 2017 in review! -
Workers at H&M supplier KT Deri, represented by Deriteks Sendikası, successfully negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with their employer, gaining a 19% wage increase and two bonuses a year among other benefits!
SITRASACOSI reached an agreement with TexOps factory to reinstate or pay acceptable severance to 77 workers that had been previously dismissed by management, who cited a need to restructure, yet originally refused to compensate the workers. SITRASACOSI also held union access meetings in Joya de Cerén, a Fruit of the Loom supplier, after negotiating an agreement in which workers are guaranteed freedom of association!
SITRASTAR represents workers at STAR factory producing for Gildan, making Nike & Adidas branded apparel. In April, Gildan announced that it would be cutting 350 jobs despite reporting profits in the region. After SITRASTAR ran a campaign targeting the buyers, including a July 29 Day of Action against Nike in which other League member unions participated and solidarity actions were planned by USAS, MSN, and Batay Ouvriye in Haiti which also faces problems with Gildan, the company announced it would only cut 170 jobs, giving priority to workers who already wanted to leave and give just compensation to the others.
The workers at Alta Gracia, represented by FEDOTRAZONAS Federación Sindical, continue to defy multinational brand claims that working directly with a union and paying a fair price to a factory in order to ensure workers are paid a living wage is impossible for a host of ridiculous reasons. The Alta Gracia factory continues to thrive and produce quality products produced in fair working conditions! FEDOTRAZONAS also continues to work with workers at a Timberland factory to organize their union despite harsh attacks on union leadership by management!
League members from around the Americas joined together in San Pedro Sula, Honduras to wrap up a year of struggle and discuss strategies to successfully continue organizing at factories representing garment workers in multinational brand supply chains. We discussed the importance of maintaining the understanding that brands are principle employers in the industry and have that inform our work in the coming year. Joining the meeting by teleconference was Union League Vice President Prathiba Prasad of GATWU in Bangalore, India, who gave an update on the Asia region and discussed important ongoing campaigns for GATWU and asked for support from other Union League members. Americas region Union League members were also able to connect with US-based United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) to discuss updates after their joint day of action against Nike to support the workers of STAR. Here's to another year of struggle and victories in 2018!
After years of organizing by independent unions in Cambodia like the League member Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), the minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia was increased to USD 170 and will be effective starting January 2018. The increase is below the demand of the unions, which was at USD 176.25, however is a significant victory for the unions who continued to fight for a fair minimum wage despite extreme government violence, resulting in 5 worker fatalities in January 2014. C.CAWDU continues to successfully organize garment workers working in multinational brand supply chains such as H&M and Adidas.
On May 27, 2017, goons hired by Azim Group attacked workers who were organizing with League member BIGUF to fight back against unfair conditions in their factory. When BIGUF dared to stand up to protect its members, they took it further, sending death threats to the BIGUF leadership, forcing our Union Brother Chandon to leave the country for his safety. After launching the successful campaign to end the harassment against him, he has been able to return safely to Chittagong, Bangladesh. The organizing campaign is still ongoing.
218 workers, organized with National Garment Workers' Federation (NGWF), from Korean-owned Haesong Garment factory conducted a symbolic hunger strike September 9, 2017, demanding compensation after the factory closed down. Haesong reneged on their promise to compensate the workers, the result of which is over 4,000 workers being left without jobs after the buyers and brands learned that Haesong Garments were submitting fake safety certificates and decided to end the orders from Haesong. The campaign is ongoing. NGWF also joined a coalition of 12 Bangladeshi unions to call for the support of the Rohingya refugees currently fleeing persecution. On December 15, 2017, over 1,000 workers went on an hour-long symbolic hunger strike to call for the support of the Rohingya community.
Kilusang Mayo Uno is currently campaigning for a USD 15 (P 750) a day national minimum wage. This campaign is part of their twin campaign, with national minimum wage coupled with campaign to end short-term contract work. KMU is also campaigning against the recent moves of the Philippine government to increase the working day from 8 hours to 12 hours, under the Compressed Work Week scheme.
The Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ & GSEU) recently concluded their 35th year anniversary celebration last August 27, 2017. More than 500 union leaders, along with international guests, attended the event and shared their experience working with FTZ & GSEU. Awards were also given to outstanding unionists, including an 86 year-old member. The struggle of the workers of ATG Ceylon (Pvt) Ltd and A TG Occupational also continue. Despite the harassment of workers, the union was able to hold a referendum last February 2017 and declared victory for the FTZ & GSEU.
GATWU joins a number of other Union League members in calling for a fair minimum wage in their respective countries. GATWU is one of many unions in India fighting for a USD 250/16000 rupee national minimum wage. In other news, GATWU members working in Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd, Unit 29 – a supplier for H&M, Gap, Inditex and others were forced to stage a sit-in to refuse to allow management to remove machinery from the factory after it was shut down. Management illegally did not give the workers notice of the shut-down. GATWU demanded that the company give priority hiring to these workers at their other facilities as well as provide transportation for them.