Background: In April 2022, Indian women- and Dalit-worker led union TTCU signed a historic agreement with clothing and textile manufacturer Eastman Exports to end gender-based violence and harassment at Eastman factories in Dindigul, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. TTCU, GLJ-ILRF, and AFWA also signed a legally binding agreement, subject to arbitration, with multinational fashion company H&M, which has an ongoing business relationship with Eastman Exports. U.S. companies Gap Inc. and PVH also signed similar agreements later in 2022.
The Dindigul agreement requires brand signatories to support and enforce the TTCU-Eastman Exports agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, if Eastman Exports violates its commitments, brand signatories are obligated to impose business consequences on Eastman Exports until Eastman comes into compliance.
Together, these interlocking agreements constitute the Dindigul Agreement — an “enforceable brand agreement” (EBA) in which multinational companies legally commit to labor and allies to use their supply chain relationships to support a worker- or union-led program at certain factories or worksites.
The following is a statement from GLJ-ILRF, Asia Floor Wage Alliance and the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU):
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific murder of Jeyasre Kathiravel, a young Indian Dalit woman, a student and an organizer against gender-based violence and harassment at a large Indian garment manufacturer sourcing to major U.S. and European fashion brands. Jeyasre was murdered by her supervisor after facing months of sexual harassment.
On this painful anniversary we stand with Jeyasre’s family, her loved ones, and all of her fellow union members of TTCU, as we honor her life by steadfastly working to transform her former factory into a space free of gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination based on caste or status as migrants.
The push for change at Jeyasre’s supplier has advanced significantly. This has been possible in part because of the massive outpouring of solidarity including from unions from over 30 countries, women’s rights organizations, Dalit rights organizations, retail workers, models, immigrant rights advocates, and so many more who met with members of the campaign and committed to support the push for structural changes in the fashion supply chain.
We are working closely with several brands and the supplier to reach an agreement to prevent and remediate gender-based violence and harassment and encourage freedom of association at the supplier factories. We acknowledge the steps that these brands and the supplier are taking towards this, including the gesture by the supplier to commemorate the tragic death of Jeyasre by providing educational scholarships to children of garment workers in Jeyasre’s factory.
We will announce the results of our negotiations at the end of this month.
We call on our friends and allies to honor the life of Jeyasre by continuing to stand in solidarity with her and her fellow garment workers who are organizing for an end to gender-based violence and harassment not only in Tamil Nadu but across fashion supply chains globally.
This week international attention is on Honduras as U.S. Vice President Harris visits the country for the inauguration of Xiomara Castro, Honduras’ first woman President, elected on a platform of tackling the enormous inequalities that have historically plagued the country. Much of the attention will be focused on Honduras’ relationship with the United States, and the Biden administration’s desire to address root causes of migration. Castro’s presidency offers tremendous hope for Hondurans on many levels but key to the question of migration is in their fight to expand labor rights and raise their standard of living in a country where nearly half the population lives below the poverty line.
In the 13 years since the 2009 coup that overthrew the presidency of her husband Jose Manuel Zelaya and ushered in an era of massive labor abuse and impunity for violence against human rights and labor rights defenders, Honduran workers have struggled to organize despite the political and economic forces aligned against them.
For example, in Choluteca, in the south of the country, it’s been over six long years since workers tried to unionize to end abusive conditions in the melon fields, and over a year since billion dollar global agricultural giant Fyffes (owned by Japanese multinational Sumitomo) came to the table to negotiate. To date, no agreement has been signed, and many key worker leaders with the union, Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria y Similares (STAS), have been locked out of jobs with chances of employment diminishing by the day as the harvest season progresses. In December, frustrated with Fyffes’ failure to move forward and its ongoing discrimination against STAS-affiliated worker leaders, union members protested in front of Fyffes offices in Choluteca.
This week STAS called on the incoming administration to take decisive steps to ensure labor rights: “We only hope that the new president will remove [the current local ministry of labor officials]…because they marginalized us and conspired with the company and they’ve destroyed workers’ chances here in the southern region. The Ministry of Labor’s policies support the companies who abuse and mistreat workers in this country,” said STAS leader Moisés Sánchez.
Despite Castro’s election victory, even before she assumed office, a move by representatives of the old political elite to retain leadership of the national congress has brought residents into the streets of the capital city Tegucigalpa. Popular protests have broken out against this attempt to wrest legislative power from Castro’s Libre party that threatens her policy agenda, including expanding protections for workers and the right to organize. STAS leaders have been in Tegucigalpa and are watching the events closely.
Melon workers in Choluteca are part of a huge movement of workers who have fought long and hard for change in Honduras.
For many years, the US government has done little to support democratic reform and workers’ rights in Honduras, while demonizing Honduran migrants to the US who have tried to escape the violence and grinding poverty in a country held captive by corrupt politicians, narco-gang leaders and cruel and extractive multinational corporate interests. Vice President Harris should use her visit to the country to make clear the US government’s support for democracy, transparency and labor rights that will provide good jobs and economic growth and enable Hondurans to build a safe and stable society.
As the Honduran people fight for the future they deserve, Fyffes must stop delaying and sign a fair deal for melon workers. International allies are united in our fight to support STAS and all workers in the country.
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