For Immediate Release

July 19, 2022

Contact: Rachel Cohen,, 917-370-8464

Seafood Labor Activists Blast US for Thailand, Taiwan Rankings in TIP Report That Gives a Pass to Widespread Worker Abuses

Seafood Labor Activists Blast US for Thailand, Taiwan Rankings in TIP Report That Gives a Pass to Widespread Worker Abuses

Washington D.C. – Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) and allies in the Seafood Working Group (SWG) today said the U.S. government has given a pass to Thailand and Taiwan on widespread abuses in the countries’ fishing and seafood processing sectors by upgrading them in its latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

“We are dismayed and disappointed that the U.S. State Department is in effect condoning and rewarding the Thai and Taiwanese governments’ failures to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. We have documented widespread abuses of migrant workers and forced labor in the fishing industry in both countries and we will continue to fight with local and international allies to eradicate them and help all workers ensure the right to advocate for themselves, form unions and bargain collectively,” said Kimberly Rogovin, Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator of GLJ-ILRF.

For years, the SWG has urged the U.S. government to use its diplomatic and economic power to demand companies around the world respect labor rights if they want access to the U.S. market. This year the group issued reports on Thailand and Taiwan, outlining abuses in the seafood industry and calling for them to be ranked Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 2, respectively.

Instead, the U.S. State Department announced today its decision to upgrade Thailand to Tier 2 and to maintain Taiwan at Tier 1.

According to the State Department’s report, the key reason for the Thailand upgrade appears to be the increased number of trafficking investigations. Increasing investigations is needed, the SWG says, but it is not a significant indicator of improvement when the government maintains discriminatory legal frameworks and fails to promote and protect labor rights for vulnerable categories of workers.

“The upgrade to Tier 2 was not warranted as Thailand still restricts migrant workers’ fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. All humans are entitled to the right to form a trade union or association in order to collectively bargain, irrespective of their nationality. Respecting these rights can mitigate social conflicts and reduce the risks of falling victim to human trafficking. For work to be decent, the Thai government must guarantee the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,” said Suthasinee Kaewleklai, Coordinator at Migrant Workers Rights Network in Thailand.

The SWG says that the State Department should not have upgraded Thailand until it makes critical reforms. They are calling on the Thai government to:

  1. Ensure full rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining for all workers in line with international standards;

  2. Establish long-term, comprehensive labor migration protections for migrants that effectively ban recruitment fees and eliminates private employment agencies from the process;

  3. Withdraw the Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations;

  4. Ensure victim-centered and trauma-informed prosecutions;

  5. Establish regular, rigorous labor inspections; and

  6. Provide legal guidance to law enforcement officials so they can effectively identify the crimes of human trafficking and forced labor.


“The Thai government proclaims its dedication to stamping out human trafficking, but at the same time, it is pushing forward a draft law on non-profit organizations with onerous restrictions on NGOs that will effectively wipe out many of the civil society groups who are working on the front line of anti-trafficking response. The U.S. government and other governments who care about stopping human trafficking in the Mekong sub-region should intervene to tell Thailand to drop that rights-abusing NGO law before it’s too late,” said Phil Roberston, Deputy Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch.

“Myanmar people are struggling to survive under the military dictatorship that has forced many to flee in search of work to support themselves and family back home. Companies in the global seafood supply chain in Thailand and elsewhere have taken advantage of desperate migrants, denying them of their rights and forcing them to work under abusive conditions for little pay. The Thai government has turned a blind eye to trafficking and maintained unsafe migration channels. We need the U.S. to keep up an international campaign to help Myanmar people and other migrants win full rights under the law,” said Htoo Chit,  Founder and Director, Foundation for Education and Development (FED).

SWG Says Taiwan Hasn’t Taken Sufficient Steps to Protect Migrant Fishers

The SWG has also called out abuses in the Taiwanese fishing industry, sharing its own recent findings, including the government’s failure to conduct timely investigations into the working conditions on the Da-Wang and Chin-Chun No. 12 vessels– despite strong indicators of human trafficking– until the U.S. government issued a trade ban. The SWG report also found that the government had not taken the necessary steps to identify and protect survivors through provision of services, nor did it administer labor inspections on distant water fishing vessels, which has allowed companies to keep victims hidden and outside the government’s safety net.

“As a human rights organization that maintains long-standing concerns about the abusive labor conditions of the migrant fishers on Taiwanese vessels, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights strongly disagrees with the U.S. Department of State’s decision to maintain Taiwan’s Tier 1 ranking. This not only fails to reflect the severity of human trafficking and forced labor in Taiwan, but also fails to effectively encourage the Taiwanese government to take further action against human trafficking,” said Yi-Hsiang, Shih, Secretary General of Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR).

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, to see the Tier 1 grading in the TIP Report once again. The U.S. government should be able to look past the government’s public relations efforts and see the real situation. The fact is: most of the discrimination, forced labor, human trafficking, and violations of human and labor rights of migrant workers has not changed at all. A small raise in the minimum wage for domestic workers and distant water fishermen—who have been excluded from the Labor Standard Act and the general minimum wage until now—cannot make up for their ongoing exploitation that the Tier 1 grading fails to recognize. Geopolitics should be separate from human rights,” said Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Director of the Department of Policies on Migrant Workers, Serve the People Association, Taoyuan (SPA).

“While Taiwan remains at Tier 1, the government will not be forced to face the music that there are victims of human rights exploitation in our society. Migrant fishers will still be discriminated against under the law and exploited by manning agencies and boat captains. The abuse of migrant workers will remain hidden from the international community,” said Jason Lee, Member of the Fishermen Service Section at Rerum Novarum Center in Taiwan.


The SWG has asked the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) to support the following recommendations to the Taiwanese government. The members aver to continue to press the governments of the U.S. and Taiwan to address these issues:

  1. Abolish the overseas employment scheme for migrant fishers and ensure all migrant fishers are governed by the Ministry of Labor and thus afforded the same rights and protections as Taiwanese fishers.

  2. Establish a clear timeline for swift and full domestication and implementation of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188).

  3. Increase inspections on vessels of Taiwan-owned and flagged as well as Taiwan-owned and foreign flagged vessels, and prosecute the owners and senior crew suspected of forced labor, especially among the distant water fishing vessels.

  4. Deploy labor inspection personnel in foreign ports where Taiwan’s distant water fishing vessels are authorized to port, and train all maritime-related inspection authorities on victim identification and law enforcement.

  5. Increase transparency in the fishery sector by requiring disclosure of vessel position, 100% observer coverage, and ensuring the safety of all observers on all fishing vessels.

“Over the past 13 years, the Taiwanese government has designed numerous action plans and regulations just to maintain the minimum standards and keep Taiwan at Tier 1, but it has never taken any concrete action to prevent human trafficking of migrant fishers. Until the government actually implements the international labor conventions and domestic regulations it has committed to, uses public power to protect labor, and no longer condones the exploitation of labor by employers, they do not deserve the Tier 1 ranking,” said Allison Lee, Secretary-General of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen’s Union (YMFU) in Taiwan.

Frontline Taiwanese NGOs will hold an online press conference on the TIP Report on Thursday, 21 July 10:00-11:00AM Taiwan (20 July 10:00-11:00PM US EDT)

Hosted by: Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights of Migrant Fishers in Taiwan in collaboration with the Seafood Working Group (SWG)

You can join Thursday at:


GLJILRF is a non-profit public-interest organization dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide. GLJ-ILRF focuses on enforcing labor rights and promoting decent work conditions consistent with best practices and International Labour Organization (ILO) standards in the low-wage sections of global supply chains such as commercial fishing. GLJ-ILRF engages in research, policy work, advocacy, and education of the public and consumers.


Chaired by GLJ-ILRF, the Seafood Working Group (SWG) is a global coalition of human rights, labor and environmental organizations that work together to develop and advocate for effective government policies and industry actions to end the related problems of forced labor, illegal fishing and overfishing in the international seafood trade.

TAIPEI – Earlier today, migrant fishers and key allies in the “Wi-Fi NOW for Fishers’ Rights” campaign, which is led by the Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI), Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, Serve the People Association (SPA), and Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC), met with the Premier of the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan, His Excellency Chen Chien-jen, to share fishers’ first-hand experiences working in Taiwan’s distant-water fishing fleet and to present their proposed solution to improve working conditions in their industry — mandatory Wi-Fi on board all 1,100 Taiwanese distant-water fishing vessels. 

Migrant fishers working in Taiwan’s distant-water fleet are calling for mandatory Wi-Fi on vessels to reduce forced labor risks and to ensure fishers can access fundamental labor rights without fear of retaliation. Every year, Taiwan’s distant-water fishing industry exports roughly 1 billion USD of distant-water fishing products, including tuna and squid, to major global markets. Evidence-based reports show that forced labor is present on Taiwanese fishing vessels, and in 2022 the United States (US) government included fish from Taiwan in its “list of goods and their source countries which it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards.”

“We stand at the crossroads of a pivotal moment in the lives of migrant distant-water fishers, who tirelessly work on Taiwanese vessels, contributing not only to the nation’s economy but also to the global seafood industry,” said Mudzakir Achmad, Chairman of Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI), which represents migrant fishers in Taiwan’s distant-water fishing industry. “We thank His Excellency Chen Chien-jen for his willingness to listen to us and we hope that he will support us in our petition for mandatory and regulated Wi-Fi access on all vessels. For us, Wi-Fi is not a luxury, but our only means while we are working at sea to connect to our families, to address issues in real-time, and to seek help when needed. It represents a lifeline for those who endure the hardships of distant-water fishing.”

At the meeting, migrant fishers and their allies delivered to His Excellency Chen Chien-jen a petition with over 13,000 signatures supporting the call for mandatory Wi-Fi, including from 1,000 migrant fishers themselves and from more than 10,000 online supporters

The “Wi-Fi NOW for Fishers’ Rights” campaign is also seeking inclusion of mandatory Wi-Fi in the labor chapter of the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade, which is currently under negotiation. “Our appeal for mandatory, secure, and cost-free Wi-Fi access for fishers on every Taiwanese distant-water fishing vessel aligns with Taiwan’s own commitments to address forced labor risks in this industry and to comply with International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 188 on Work in Fishing,” said Valery Alzaga, Deputy Director of Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF). 

To guarantee that Wi-Fi is accessible for fishers and supports fishers’ labor rights, migrant fishers and their allies are calling for mandatory Wi-Fi to meet the following key criteria:

  1. Accessibility for all fishers on board; 
  2. Costs of Wi-Fi are not passed on to the fishers; 
  3. Data privacy protections to ensure the confidentiality of fishers’ communications and prevent retaliation;
  4. Reasonable and transparent rules for when and how fishers use it consistent with occupational safety and health for all workers; and
  5. A conflict resolution pathway agreed with vessel owners to remedy violations without retaliation.

The campaign has also called on corporations in or connected to Taiwan’s distant-water fishing industry to participate in a roundtable with industry, labor, and government to discuss Wi-Fi implementation, leading towards a pilot program on several vessels that can inform implementation across Taiwan’s fleet. “Global seafood brands and retailers sourcing from Taiwan should join us to address abusive labor conditions for fishers in their supply chains. Otherwise, these corporations risk continued exposure to forced labor import bans and other similar legal consequences,” said Alzaga of GLJ-ILRF. 

Petition (English) –

Petition (Mandarin) –

Petition (Indonesian) –

Petition (Japanese) –


GLJILRF is a non-profit public-interest organization dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide. GLJ-ILRF focuses on enforcing labor rights and promoting decent work conditions consistent with best practices and International Labour Organization (ILO) standards in the low-wage sections of global supply chains such as commercial fishing. GLJ-ILRF engages in research, policy work, advocacy, and education of the public and consumers.


For immediate release: April 22nd, 2020

Contact: Nazly Sobhi Damasio,

Garment Brands Must be Financially Responsible for Garment Workers in Global Supply Chains During the COVID-19 Humanitarian Crisis

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, many global garment brands have cancelled or postponed orders, placing the responsibility on suppliers and leading to millions of garment workers in global supply chains to be laid off or suspended indefinitely, most of whom are women. As is, garment workers in global supply chains are some of the most economically impacted workers in the global economy, working high risk poverty wage jobs who are not afforded social protections or paid leave whatsoever. The COVID-19 crisis has only further exacerbated this reality, and exposed garment workers and their families to face enormous economic, labor and human rights issues and without recourse to access their most basic needs including food, healthcare, or lost wages.

This week, Asia Floor Wage Alliance website (AFWA) released a specific income relief demand relief referred as the Supply Chain Relief Contribution (SRC) through which global garment brands financial responsibility for garment workers in global supply chains.  The SRC Contribution isa one-time brand supply chain contribution calculated at an  additional 2% of the total annual sourcing by the brand from the preceding 12 months at each respective factory towards immediate relief paid through suppliers to workers in a way that maintains the employment relationships. The SRC contribution would partially mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on supply chain workers and is fundamental as existing wages are so low workers do not have savings to cover the COVID-19 loss of income.

The SRC is a relief contribution and in no way substitutes brands’ existing and ongoing supply chain obligations to pay for orders given and produced, to not cancel orders, to not seek discounts in an already under-costed supply chain, and to act accountability in relation to any future cases of downsizing, retrenchment and closure.

“Brands must immediately contribute directly to income relief for garment workers and it should be paid through suppliers to protect continuity of the employment relationship.  Up to now, wages have been so consistently low that garment workers are not able to bear the months of unpaid work without risk to health and wellbeing for themselves and their families.  Fast Fashion global supply chains must also be transformed to ensure living wages and a social contract for all workers. GLJ supports Asia Floor Wage Alliance in their demands on brands and suppliers in global garment supply chains to implement the above mentioned steps to help partially offset the economic and humanitarian impact of the COVID-19 crisis on garment workers in global supply chains,” says Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice website

GLJ also urges brands and suppliers to join with AFWA and its member unions and allies in respective countries to work together with suppliers to ensure that the Supply-Chain Relief Contribution and any additional government relief programs reach all eligible workers with a co-enforcement mechanism.

You can read the AFWA note on SRC Contribution in full AFWA note on SRC Contribution in full

For Immediate Release

July 28, 2022


GLJ-ILRF: Rachel Cohen,, 917-370-8464

Equidem: Amanda Sperber: // +1 914 484 8854

REPORT: Qatar Hotels Hosting Teams & Fans at World Cup Exploited and Abused Migrant Workers

‘We Work Like Robots’ details workers’ stories of wage theft, discrimination, dangerous conditions and gender-based violence and harassment at 32 FIFA partner hotels employing an estimated 10,000 workers.

Register for the Press Conference on 28 July at 2PM BST 

For nine months, we were made to work for more than 12 hours a day, without a day off. In order to keep our hours hidden, we were prevented from clocking in and clocking out. I was on the verge of going insane,”  said an Indian worker at the Holiday Villa Hotel and Residence, Doha, a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 partner hotel.

LONDON – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (“Qatar World Cup”) hotel managers exploited and violated the rights of thousands of migrant workers from Africa and Asia, according to a new investigation released today by Equidem and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF). 

The groups detail significant labour and human rights violations they found at most of the hotels that employ an estimated 9,000-10,000 workers who will host World Cup teams, spectators and corporate sponsors later this year.

Field  investigators – themselves migrant workers – interviewed 80 workers over two years. Women and men from Africa and Asia working at World Cup hotels describe—in their own words—the sexual harassment, nationality- and gender-based discrimination, wage theft, health and safety risks, sudden loss of employment, and illegal recruitment charges they faced in their work.  Qatar’s laws and policies fuel these rights violations: Workers are denied the fundamental right to associate, subjected to intensive surveillance and employer control, and fear retaliation—including employer-instigated deportation—for defending their rights and interests.

The report details widespread systematic abuse and exploitation, including:

  • Wage theft, including unilateral cuts in pay of up to 75% and unpaid, forced overtime.
  • Nationality-based wage discrimination at all 32 of the hotels designated as FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 hospitality partners.
  • Widespread reports of coworkers and guests subjecting women workers to gender based violence and harassment, including inappropriate touching and sexual propositions.
  • Stolen COVID premium pay: workers said they were promised double wages to work with COVID-19 positive people, but those wages were stolen, and workers were never paid for assuming serious health risks.

“Four months before the 2022 FIFA World Cup is played in Qatar, migrant workers in the World Cup partner hotels report a pattern of gender based violence and harassment, discrimination, wage theft, and fear of retaliation if they come forward.” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, GLJ-ILRF Executive Director. “These reports expose the failed model of corporate social responsibility models (“CSR”)- where corporations have sole responsibility to monitor and enforce their own interpretations of labour standards.  We invite an immediate dialogue with FIFA and its partner hotels about the steps necessary to raise and maintain workplace conditions at or above international labor standards and the fundamental role of labour and human rights organizations in this process. Without this, hotel workers will continue to face daily violations of international labor standards and the players and fans who stay at these hotels will be complicit in an extractive business model that puts profit over people.”

The report is based on research conducted from February 2020 to July 2022 and documents significant labour and human rights violations in 13 out of 17 of FIFA’s partner hotel groups. These international brands employ thousands of migrant workers from countries including Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda.

Migrant workers are at significant risk of discrimination and exploitation because of the extreme power imbalances between migrant workers and employers in Qatar. The nationality-based hierarchies in Qatar are entrenched by policies that deny migrant workers paths to long-term residency or permanent citizenship. In this context, migrant workers require forums for collective action to safeguard their rights and promote their interests.

“Despite an upsurge in rights-protection initiatives by FIFA and Qatar over the last two years, workers across most World Cup hotels have reported a troubling pattern of abuse and fears of reprisal for speaking out. Our research indicates that thousands of migrant workers at World Cup hotels are owed compensation for illegal recruitment charges, unpaid wages and overtime, and other harms suffered in Qatar,” said Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem. “With less than four months until kick-off, the Qatar World Cup is facing an exploitation crisis that neither FIFA, Qatar, nor their hotel partners can hide behind audits and expert partnerships.”

Equidem and GLJ-ILRF call on FIFA, Qatar authorities and their World Cup partners to ensure hotel workers who have faced discrimination, exploitation and other harms are provided a remedy consistent with international recognized responsible business and human rights practices.

Equidem and GLJ-ILRF further call for the establishment of a genuinely independent Migrant Worker Centre in Qatar as a necessary step towards advancing freedom of association and creating a modern, rights-respecting labour system in the country.

“A top-down, heavily state-controlled labour reform process is inhibiting efforts to improve respect for migrant worker rights at Qatar World Cup hotels, despite the critical help of international trade union bodies, UN agencies and other experts,” Qadri said. “Qatar must respect its international obligations to respect freedom of association rights so that migrant workers have the space to safely voice concerns about their treatment.”

Over 800 workers were contacted in an attempt to understand their experience but only 80 replied, which suggests the exploitation and abuse is widely underreported.

Read the full report here

Equidem and GLJ-ILRF will host a press conference today at 2pm BST/ 9am ET to offer more detail and answer questions about the report. Register here.

Equidem: Amanda Sperber: // +1 914 484 8854
GLJ-IRLF: Rachel Cohen, // +1 917-370-8464


Equidem is a human rights and labour rights charity working globally and locally to promote the rights of marginalised communities, accountability for serious violations, and building the human rights movement. Our team of experts and field investigators expose injustice, provide solutions for the most intractable human rights challenges and work closely with grassroots and global civil society to empower the individual and the community.

Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) is a new merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labour migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labour rights violations in their supply chains; advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration; and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.


CONTACT: Nazly Sobhi Damasio,

On the First Anniversary of ILO Convention C190 Report Calls for an to End to Gender Based Violence and Harassment on Fast Fashion Supply Chains 

A report published today by Global Labor Justice, titled, Advancing Gender Justice on Asian Fast Fashion Supply Chains Post COVID-19: Learning from ILO’s Convention 190 on its First Anniversary, reviews the gendered impact of COVID-19—and the need for a transformational approach to prevent and end gender based violence & harassment. At the first anniversary of its adoption, the report shows how ILO Convention C190 gives direction to the responses brands, employers, and governments should be taking in the context of Asian fast fashion supply chains, which produce primarily consumer apparel and footwear.

You can read the report here.

Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee, Research Director for Global Labor Justice says, “Women workers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout. The groundbreaking legal standards in Convention 190 provide a mechanism to respond to the global crisis at work by recognizing practices that result in economic harm as a form of violence and advancing a gender-sensitive approach to addressing violence in the work of work, including by addressing risks associated with discrimination, unequal relationships of power, and occupational health and safety.”

On the first anniversary of the ILO’s adoption of C190 and its accompanying recommendation, we are grappling with catastrophic shocks to economic security, public health, and freedom of association and assembly caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. This report is focused on the fact that women workers have been disproportionately affected by this crisis and utilizes a gender lens to examine worker issues— a perspective that has been absent from major employer and government responses.

The report provides detailed guidance to fast fashion brands on the steps they can take to uphold C190 and address violence on garment supply chains in context of the global public health crisis and the economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While this report focuses on fast fashion supply chains, the guidance for corporate accountability to achieve violence free workplaces provides an important roadmap across global supply chain sectors.

JJ Rosenbaum, U.S. Director for Global Labor Justice says, “As we move towards a new reality, all eyes will be on the fast fashion industry — and we will continue to push for systemic change to create a new era where exploitation is abolished and all workers on the global garment supply chain are paid a living wage, their right to freedom of association is respected, and workplaces are free from gender based violence and harassment to ensure justice for all workers in the global economy.”

Women workers and trade union leaders are rising to meet the challenges posed by C190 in the COVID-19 context, leading demands for accountability and gender justice. On fast fashion supply chains, women workers, trade unionists, and leaders have called for brands to end the economic violence facing women workers by paying in full for orders completed and in production; and supply chain relief contributions (SRCs) to compensate for the income loss resulting from suspension of work for various reasons, including quarantine and order cancellation. Now, more than ever, we need to advance C190 protections for women workers who are identifying and addressing GBVH at work.



Global Labor Justice is a new strategy hub supporting transnational collaboration among worker and migrant organizations to expand labor rights and new forms of bargaining on global value chains and international labor migration corridors. Global Labor Justice works with grassroots worker and migrant organizations to promote long term change in policy and corporate practice that prevents labor exploitation leading up to and including modern day slavery and promotes innovative accountability structures that respond to the increasingly globalized economy.


For Immediate Release

February 27, 2023

Contact: Rachel Cohen, GLJ-ILRF:


REPORT: Big Fashion Founding Families, Investors Cash In On Wage Theft 

Asian Unions and Allies Launch Campaign to Stop Nike, Levi’s and VF Corp. From Funneling Stolen Pandemic Wages toward Buybacks that Enriched Owners, Wall Street

Register for the press call on Tuesday, February 28 at 9:00 AM ET / 7:30 PM IST / 9:00 PM ICT:


WASHINGTON – Labor Unions in six countries in South and Southeast Asia are joining forces to demand an end to stock buybacks by US-based Big Fashion companies after years of unpaid wage claims. These unions and their global allies, Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), are launching their “Fight the Heist” campaign with a new report that reveals how Nike, VF Corp. and Levi’s and their wealthiest investors are profiting through wage theft from workers in their Asian supply chains.  

The report “Big Fashion Investors Cash In on Wage Theft,” released today, shows that after quickly bouncing back from a brief pandemic slowdown in 2020, Nike, VF Corp. and Levi’s executives and investors have seen their profits skyrocket through stock buybacks and dividends. Meanwhile, the vast majority of garment workers, who lost on average 22% of their normal wages in 2020, have received no payback and remain in permanent crisis, with many factories continuing to steal overtime pay or pay subminimum wages. 

 Share buybacks in other sectors, like the airline and semiconductor industry, have recently come under scrutiny. Senators and members of Congress are proposing legislation to rein in Wall Street’s expansive efforts to reward investors. However, there’s been little notice of Big Fashion’s lavish payments to investors as garment workers struggle to survive.

“At the same time that workers lost wages en masse, Big Fashion made record profits and brands paid themselves millions through stock buybacks. The Nike-owning Knight family, for example, paid themselves $74 million in dividends while garment workers literally could not survive,” said GLJ-ILRF Executive Director Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum. “The campaign is demanding that brands negotiate a forward-looking solution to transform their supply chains for workers, pay back the money garment workers lost and end stock buybacks until workers are made whole.”

Nike and Levi’s increased their share buyback programs in 2022. Nike authorized a new $18 billion dollar buyback program ($3 billion more than before), Levi’s approved a $750 million share repurchase program ($650 million more than before). VF Corporation paused and reinstated its existing share buyback program in 2021, and projects spending $7 billion on share repurchases in the next four years.

“At the start of the pandemic, I was furloughed for weeks at a time and lost all my savings,” said Netra, who makes Nike apparel at a factory in Indonesia. “My factory never paid my back wages and I’m struggling to send the money my parents and siblings rely on. Nike should ensure factory owners pay us fairly for the work we’ve done.”

The new report follows up on a 2021 AFWA report, “Money Heist,” that surveyed thousands of workers at the beginning of the pandemic in 189 factories that make clothes for some of the world’s largest brands. The report documented at least $164 million in lost wages as garment producers skirted national laws on worker pay. 

In late 2022, investigators returned to dozens of factories from the first report and found:

  • Nine in ten factories have not resolved workers’ COVID wage claims from 2020.
  • More than half of factories are not paying workers owed overtime, beginning in 2020 onward. 
  • One in five factories are not paying workers minimum wages or owed benefits.  

Taking data collected as representative of a likely overall trend, the total potential COVID wage claims for Nike, Levi’s and North Face parent company VF Corporation in just the six surveyed countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) could be as much as $427 million.

“The pandemic was a global shock that has had a severe impact on the health and finances of garment workers,” said AFWA International Coordinator Anannya Bhattacharjee. “The industry looks for every possible opportunity to push its risk and losses onto workers with the fewest options and least bargaining power. But workers are fighting back and linking arms with workers in the US to demand that these companies pay them what they are owed before they make lavish payouts to investors.”

Asian garment unions, AFWA, GLJ-ILRF and other allies are calling on these Big Fashion companies to: 

  • Sit down with garment workers and their unions for a systematic investigation of COVID wage claims, including specific impacts on women workers. 
  • Stop billionaire payouts from dividends and stock buybacks until all garment workers are repaid their lost wages.
  • Transform their global supply chains to provide living wages for all workers.

Unions representing workers at Nike factories today filed an OECD complaint with the US National Contact Point. It alleges that Nike has contributed to “severe human rights impacts” for garment workers in its supply chain but has not addressed and remediated the impacts according to the OECD Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct. Nike has not responded to unions’ requests for dialogue about these impacts, which the Guidelines call for. 

If the US NCP approves the complaint, the NCP will formally invite Nike to dialogue with the unions about their demands and facilitate a dialogue process.

You can read the full “Big Fashion Investors Cash In on Wage Theft” report here

You can read more about the OECD complaint here.


Get more info on the campaign on our press call on Tuesday, February 28 at 9:00 AM ET / 7:30 PM IST / 9:00 PM ICT

Zoom registration link:



Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an Asian labour-led global labour and social alliance across garment producing countries (such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh) and consumer regions (USA and Europe) for addressing poverty level wages, gender-based violence, and freedom of association in global garment production networks. 

Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains. 


For immediate release: June 24th, 2020

Contact: Nazly Sobhi Damasio,

Four Major Civil Society Groups Release Dispute Resolution System and Model Arbitration Clauses for Disputes Arising Under Enforceable Brand Agreements

Today, four major civil society groups released a model dispute resolution system, focused on model arbitration clauses, for disputes on labor standards in supply-chain operations. The Clean Clothes Campaign, Global Labor Justice, International Labor Rights Forum, and Worker Rights Consortium issued their Model Arbitration Clauses for the Resolution of Disputes under Enforceable Brand Agreements to make firms’ agreements with unions and other worker advocates binding and enforceable.

With the seismic shocks to economic security and public health caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, enforceable brand agreements are an important avenue for maintaining ongoing employment, and transforming the economy through structural change for redistribution in supply chains.  Witness the millions of apparel workers laid off due to global brands’ cancelled orders and left with no savings or social protection.

Drafted by a team of international labor and human rights arbitration experts, the model clauses respond to experiences under the Bangladesh Accord, an agreement on fire and building safety in garment-producing workplaces in that country that followed the horrific 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, which killed more than 1,100 workers and left hundreds more permanently injured.

The Accord is one of several initiatives pioneering a surge in enforceable brand agreements. They represent a growing trend in new standards for transparent and enforceable corporate accountability agreements between global brands and unions.  The Model Arbitration Clauses provide a template for more cost-effective dispute resolution approaches that can be included in these agreements, saving time and resources for employers and unions alike.

Designed for direct incorporation into enforceable brand agreements, the Model Arbitration Clauses for the Resolution of Disputes under Enforceable Brand Agreements, advance a streamlined arbitration system with a rapid timeline that protects impartiality and due process while avoiding excessive litigiousness, promoting transparency, alleviating burdensome costs, and providing final and binding enforcement. Led by international law and labor law scholars, Lance Compa and Katerina Yiannibas, the Clauses draw from leading international arbitration rules and existing supply-chain agreements negotiated by trade unions, labor rights NGOs and brands.

ILRF director Judy Gearhart said, “These model clauses provide a new template for enforceable brand agreements. They’re meant for use by companies, unions, and civil society labor advocates who negotiate agreements on labor conditions in supply chains. This arbitration system provides a streamlined, cost-effective method for neutral decision-making when workers claim violation of rights and standards under agreements between brands and labor advocates.”

WRC General Counsel Ben Hensler said, “This model arbitration language highlights a key aspect of how enforceable supply chain agreements between brands and unions differ sharply from corporate codes of conduct and other unilateral, voluntary schemes that overly depend on company goodwill without giving workers and their representatives an equal voice and equal oversight in their implementation. This is an important step forward in the further development of binding and enforceable agreements on supply-chain labor rights standards.”

GLJ director JJ Rosenbaum said, “Labor stakeholders and brand representatives can incorporate this model language into their agreements. Alternatively, they can use this language as a starting point for negotiating an arbitration clause tailored to the specific features of their relationship, such as their economic sector, product line, pricing structures, locations of brand headquarters and supply-chain workplaces, composition of the parties on each side of the negotiating table, and other considerations.”

CCC coordinator Ineke Zeldenrust said, “While such agreements typically involve international supply-chain relationships, these clauses could be adapted to a domestic supply-chain system, to framework agreements between global unions and multinational companies, to ‘fair trade’ agreements between advocacy organizations and firms that promote a fair-trade brand, and other types of agreements involving worker rights supporters and companies committed to respecting international labor standards.”

The Model Clauses document is available at the website of each of the sponsoring organizations: Clean Clothes Campaign, Global Labor Justice, International Labor Rights Forum, and Worker Rights Consortium.






For Immediate Release

March 12, 2023

Contact: Rachel Cohen,

Migrant Fishers Bring Call for Labor Rights to Boston Seafood Expo

Boston – Boston fishing and labor advocates, teachers and community members today joined Taiwan’s migrant fishers at the Seafood Expo North America to call on big seafood brands to take responsibility for their supply chains and ensure fishers’ fundamental labor rights at sea. 

Fishers spoke out about the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign and why having Wi-Fi communication is vital to protecting their rights. 

Conditions are very tough on the high seas. We need Wi-Fi to communicate with our labor organizations and families. This is how we will protect our rights and our mental health and ensure we are getting fair pay and treatment. We are asking seafood companies, governments and vessel owners to ensure we have rights on the job and a way to talk to the outside world when we’re at sea,” said Edi Kasdiwan of the Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI), who traveled to Boston to attend the Expo. 

Faith, labor and community leaders from the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, the Boston Teachers Union, Boston Seafarers Mission, UFCW Local 1445, MassCOSH, Catholic Labor Guild, North Shore Labor Council  and other groups joined migrant fishers who work on Taiwanese deep-sea fishing vessels and other US and Taiwanese allies at the Expo. They called out the big seafood companies that make claims of a fair and safe supply chain but take little responsibility when it comes to ensuring that fishers in their supply chains work under international labor standards.

At sea for up to a year, workers are isolated and unable to communicate with their family, labor organizations, service providers, or state officials. The fishers have launched a global solidarity campaign to call for Wi-Fi on every vessel in the Taiwanese distant water fleet as a critical necessity to ensure workers’ rights under international labor standards. They are fighting for the right to organize and to end forced labor, violence and health and safety violations on their ships.

Taiwan has the world’s second largest distant water fleet, with more than 22,000 crew, the majority being migrant workers. Without access to Wi-Fi onboard fishing vessels, workers are isolated and unable to communicate with their labor organizations, service providers, state officials or their families.

Many workers have reported harrowing conditions aboard these vessels, including insufficient drinking water and food, sanitation problems, lack of onboard safety measures, high recruitment fees that put workers in debt, arbitrary wage deductions, unilateral contract termination and deportation without due process, as well as egregious abuses such as forced labor, physical abuse, murders, and disappearances at sea.

In a recent incident reported by the Yilan Migrant Fishers Union, fishers on a vessel called the Shunjie– operating in the Tonga Islands without Wi-Fi equipment–  were forced to work 20 hours a day and wrap wounds from their work with wire tapes because there were no bandages. The fishers said the captain scolded them when they were ill and asked for medicine. After months under these conditions, the fishers were only able to reach out for help when they docked and fellow fishers shared their Wi-Fi connection.

The fishers have come together to call on the U.S., Japanese and Taiwanese governments, vessel owners, seafood brands and investors to recognize their right to the ILO’s fundamental rights. Workers are looking for dialogue with companies to find solutions.

“We are in Boston to hold the world’s biggest seafood companies responsible for their supply chains. Fishers are workers who deserve rights on the job. Taiwan’s migrant fishers have launched a global campaign for that right and it’s time for these brands and retailers to come to the table with fishers and ensure that vessel owners respect their rights. These global buyers have the power to improve conditions and ensure communications access for workers in distant-water fleets,” said Kimberly Rogovin, Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator, GLJ-ILRF.

The fishers have organized their international campaign with U.S., Taiwanese and Indonesian allies, including Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum, or Forum Silaturahmi Pelaut Indonesia (FOSPI), Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC).

Click here for more info about the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign.



Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains. 

For immediate release: July 23rd, 2020

Contact: Nazly Sobhi Damasio,

180+ Orgs Demand Apparel Brands End Complicity in Uyghur Forced Labour

Today, 72 Uyghur rights groups are joined by over 100 civil society organisations and labour unions from around the world in calling on apparel brands and retailers to stop using forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“Uyghur Region”), known to local people as East Turkistan, and end their complicity in the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. The groups have issued a call to action seeking brand commitments to cut all ties with suppliers implicated in forced labour and end all sourcing from the Uyghur Region, from cotton to finished garments, within twelve months.

“Now is the time for real action from brands, governments and international bodies – not empty declarations. To end the slavery and horrific abuses of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim peoples by the Chinese government, brands must ensure their supply chains are not linked to the atrocities against these people. The only way brands can ensure they are not profiting from the exploitation is by exiting the region and ending relationships with suppliers propping up this Chinese government system,” said Jasmine O’Connor OBE, CEO of Anti-Slavery International.

The Chinese government has rounded up an estimated 1 to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people in detention and forced-labour camps, the largest interment of an ethnic and religious minority since World War II. The atrocities in the Uyghur Region – including torture, forced separation of families, and the compulsory sterilisation of Uyghur women – are widely recognised to be crimes against humanity. A central element of the government’s strategy to dominate the Uyghur people is a vast system of forced labour, affecting factories and farms across the region and China, both inside and beyond the internment camps.

Gulzira Auelkhan, a Kazakh woman who was formerly detained in an internment camp and then subjected to forced labour in a factory said: “The clothes factory was no different from the [internment] camp. There were police, cameras, you couldn’t go anywhere.”

Despite global outrage at the abuses, leading apparel brands are bolstering and benefiting from the government’s assault on the peoples of the region. Brands continue to source millions of tons of cotton and yarn from the Uyghur Region. Roughly 1 in 5 cotton garments sold globally contains cotton and/or yarn from the Uyghur Region; it is virtually certain that many of these goods are tainted with forced labour. Moreover, apparel brands maintain lucrative partnerships with Chinese corporations implicated in forced labour, including those that benefit from the forced labour transfer of victims from the Uyghur Region to work in factories across China.

“Global brands need to ask themselves how comfortable they are contributing to a genocidal policy against the Uyghur people. These companies have somehow managed to avoid scrutiny for complicity in that very policy – this stops today,” said Omer Kanat, Executive Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

The supply chains of most major apparel brands and retailers are tainted by Uyghur forced labour. Major corporations claim not to tolerate forced labour by their suppliers, but have offered no credible explanation as to how they can meet this standard while continuing to do business in a region where forced labour is rife.

“Forced labourers in the Uyghur Region face vicious retaliation if they tell the truth about their circumstances. This makes due diligence through labour inspections impossible and virtually guarantees that any brand sourcing from the Uyghur Region is using forced labour,” said Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium.

“Given the lack of leverage and the inability to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts, apparel brands and retailers must take the necessary steps to end business relationships connected to the Uyghur Region in order to fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights as defined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” said David Schilling, Senior Program Director of Human Rights at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

“If responsible business conduct has any meaning, it requires fashion brands to act when independent journalists, United Nations human rights experts, and human rights NGOs expose grave human rights abuses,” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum. “Business and human rights principles require fashion brands to stop using cotton and labour from the Uyghur Region in their global supply chains.”


Media Contacts:

Peter Irwin, Uyghur Human Rights Project (Washington, DC): +1 (646) 906-7722,

Penelope Kyritsis, Worker Rights Consortium (Washington, DC): +1 (401) 209-5917,

Chloe Cranston, Anti-Slavery International (London): +44 7789 936 383,

Johnson Yeung, Clean Clothes Campaign (Hong Kong): +852 6124 5154,

Nazly Sobhi Damasio, Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum,


More information:

Groups are seeking the following commitments from brands and retailers:

  • Stop sourcing cotton, yarn, textiles, and finished products from the Uyghur Region. Since cotton and yarn from the region is used to make textiles and finished goods across China and in numerous other countries, this requires brands to direct all factories that supply them with textiles and finished goods not to use cotton or yarn from the Uyghur region.
  • Cut ties with companies implicated in forced labour – those that have operations in the Uyghur region and have accepted government subsidies and/or government-supplied labour at these operations. Examples include: Hong Kong-based Esquel Group and Chinese companies based outside of the Uyghur Region, such as Huafu Fashion Co., Lu Thai Textile Co., Jinsheng Group (parent company of Litai Textiles/Xingshi), Youngor Group, and Shandong Ruyi Technology Group Co.
  • Prohibit any supplier factories located outside of the Uyghur Region from using Uyghurs or Turkic or Muslim workers supplied through the Chinese government’s forced labour transfer scheme.
  • Note: Taking the actions listed above does not preclude brands from sourcing clothing from elsewhere in China, as long as cotton or yarn from the Uyghur Region is not used to make the clothing and as long as suppliers are not using forced Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim labour.

Virtually the entire apparel industry is tainted by forced Uyghur and Turkic Muslim labour. Credible investigations and reports by the Associated Press, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Axios, Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Global Legal Action Network, and the Wall Street Journal have linked the following apparel brands and retailers to specific cases of Uyghur forced labour:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • adidas
  • Amazon
  • Badger Sport (Founder Sport Group)
  • C&A (Cofra Holding AG)
  • Calvin Klein (PVH)
  • Carter’s
  • Cerruti 1881 (Trinity Limited)
  • Costco
  • Cotton On
  • Dangerfield (Factory X Pty Ltd)
  • Esprit (Esprit Holdings Ltd.)
  • Fila (FILA KOREA Ltd)
  • Gap
  • H&M
  • Hart Schaffner Marx (Authentic Brands Group)
  • Ikea (Inter IKEA Systems B.V.)
  • Jack & Jones (Bestseller)
  • Jeanswest (Harbour Guidance Pty Ltd)
  • L.L.Bean
  • Lacoste (Maus Freres)
  • Li-Ning
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Mayor
  • Muji (Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd.)
  • Nike
  • Patagonia
  • Polo Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren Corporation)
  • Puma
  • Skechers
  • Summit Resource International (Caterpillar)
  • Target Australia (Wesfarmers)
  • Tommy Hilfiger (PVH)
  • Uniqlo (Fast Retailing)
  • Victoria’s Secret (L Brands)
  • Woolworths (Woolworth Corporation, LLC.)
  • Zara (Inditex)
  • Zegna



For Immediate Release

March 8, 2023

Contact: Rachel Cohen,

Global Tuna Giant Takes Positive Step to Resolve GLJ-ILRF Allegations of Overstated Labor Rights Claims

WASHINGTON– Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) today welcomed a settlement with Bumble Bee Foods, under which the tuna giant agreed to remove specific claims about its fishing practices and working conditions, including “fair and safe supply chain” and “fair and responsible working conditions,” from its website, social media presence, and other public advertising to reach a mutual settlement of the lawsuit.

The resolution of the lawsuit coincides with the recent launch of the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign to ensure fair and responsible working conditions for Taiwan’s migrant distant-water fishers. The fishers have launched a campaign for fundamental workers’ rights– including freedom of association and health and safety at work– and for Wi-Fi access on their vessels so they can protect those rights.

Migrant fishers, GLJ-ILRF and other Taiwanese and U.S. allies will bring the call for these rights to big seafood producers and brands at the North America Seafood Expo in Boston this weekend.

“This settlement is a step in the right direction, and we are hoping for productive dialogue with Bumble Bee and other industry actors and governments about ensuring accessible and encrypted Wi-Fi for fishers in Taiwan’s fleet. Wi-Fi on every vessel would enable workers to protect their fundamental labor rights on board and prevent labor exploitation. This is an opportunity for industry, governments, fishers, and their unions to work together towards a shared solution,” said Sahiba Gill, Senior Staff Attorney at GLJ-ILRF.

In March 2022, GLJ-ILRF filed suit in a Washington D.C. court against Bumble Bee Foods, LLC– North America’s largest canned tuna brand and subsidiary of Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company, Ltd. (FCF), a Taiwan-based seafood trader ranked as one of the top three in the world – over its marketing claims that it sources its tuna through a “fair and safe supply chain.” The lawsuit highlighted a history of labor problems in the deep sea fishing sector and demanded Bumble Bee show its advertising was backed up by meaningful practices to protect workers and the environment.  Through the settlement, Bumble Bee agreed to remove the disputed statements for ten years.

“Now the work continues to ensure fishers in Bumble Bee’s supply chain and across the sector fish in decent conditions. Wi-Fi access for all fishers in the Taiwan fleet is a first step in that direction,” said Kimberly Rogovin, GLJ-ILRF Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator.

GLJ-ILRF brought suit under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which allows public interest non-profit organizations to bring consumer protection claims on behalf of consumers and the general public. GLJ-ILRF was represented in this case by Richman Law & Policy.

Updates on the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea here

Read GLJ-ILRF’s report Wi-Fi for Fishers at Sea



Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains.