In 1908 there was a garment worker's strike in the US to demand better working conditions, and that in 1909, the first National Women's Day was celebrated to honor the garment worker's strike.
I often get asked the question - aren't all businesses social enterprises since they employ people? The answer to that is an emphatic NO because there are businesses that are abusive and exploitative.
This is precisely the question asked of factories in the garment industry - are they actually empowering women and helping lift them out of poverty? A common argument is that it's better to have a job than to have no job at all.
But consider this: women working in garment factories face wage theft (where they are not paid minimum wage and are not paid overtime), unsanitary and unhealthy working conditions, and gender-based violence and abuse to name a few.
But it is this thinking that any job is better than no job that leads to abuse by employers because employers are relying on the fact that women have very little employment opportunities so that they will take whatever they can and will accept whatever working conditions there are.
In an earlier blog post, Resources on Sustainable Fashion, we shared articles, podcasts, movies, and other material on various aspects of sustainability in fashion. In this post, we share articles and reports specifically around the plight of women working in the garment industry, the dangers of fast fashion, what has to change, greenwashing in the industry, and what we can do to help. There are many other resources to dive into but these ten are a great place to start.
1. A Century Later, Garment Workers Still Face the Unfair Labor Conditions that Sparked International Women's Day
2. Fashion Must Do More to Protect Female Workers
3. Exploitation or Emancipation: Women Workers in the Garment Industry
5. Living Wages for Women: The Roots of Unfair Pay
6. Persisting Inequalities and Ethical issues in the Fast Fashion Industry
7. How to End Fast Fashion Factories and Improve the Lives of Garment Workers
8. How an International Clothing Brand Neglected Its Women Workers
9. Unbearable Harassment: The Abuse of Female Garment Workers
In doing research for this post, we were amazed to discover that in 1908 there was a garment worker's strike in the US to demand better working conditions, and in 1909, the first National Women's Day was celebrated to honor the garment worker's strike. Indeed the history of women's working rights are closely intertwined with the fashion industry.
More than one hundred years later, women still face the same conditions, or worse. But you and I can do something by using our voices and voting with our wallets. If this post resonated with you, please feel free to share with friends, family, and social media. Likewise, if you have other resources to share we would love to hear from you. Thank you for being with us on this journey to create a new normal in fashion.