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Today in Sweatshops

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Everyone loves Beyoncé. But you would be surprised to know that she is exploiting sweatshop labor for her clothing brand? Of course you wouldn’t:

Ivy Park, the sportswear brand that is a joint venture between singer Beyonce and Topshop tycoon Philip Green, has defended itself against a Sun newspaper report that says its supplier in Sri Lanka uses “sweatshop slaves” to produce the clothing.

Workers making some of the clothes at MAS Holdings in Sri Lanka earn just 4.30 pounds ($6.30) a day, the tabloid reported on Sunday. Most of the “poverty-stricken seamstresses” are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs, it said.

“Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading programme. We are proud of our sustained efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits, and our teams worldwide work very closely with our suppliers and their factories to ensure compliance,” Ivy Park said in a statement emailed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We expect our suppliers to meet our code of conduct and we support them in achieving these requirements,” it said.

Oh, well, I’m convinced….

However, while companies generally comply with the minimum-wage levels set by governments in Asia, these wages “fall far below a wage a person could live on”, according to lobby group Clean Clothes Campaign.

It estimates that in Sri Lanka the minimum monthly wage is about a fifth of the country’s living wage.

Annanya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA)said the garment workers in Sri Lanka were probably working longer than eight-hour days and not being paid overtime.

“They often don’t have the option of saying ‘no’ as they may lose their jobs if they do, and also because of economic coercion. So this is a form of forced labour; they’re bound to the employer,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The AFWA will call on the International Labour Organization at its conference next month to adopt its recommendations for global standards for supply chains that include the recognition of a living wage as a human right.

To be blunt, if Beyoncé believes in feminism and social justice as she claims, she needs to intervene here. I am positive she has no idea what is going on in those sweatshops and it’s her people handling all of this. But it’s her name and it’s on her to do something about it.

Speaking of such things, how about opening a store in New York that exposes random people who walk to some information about sweatshops?

The Mad Rush is a concept store launched in Amsterdam aimed to raise awareness about dangerous working conditions behind cheap fashion, designed by Schone Kleren Campagne, the Dutch arm of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The boutique is situated in the busy shopping street of Kalverstraat in Amsterdam. From the outside, it appears like any other well-lit, stylish clothing store. However, once a customer asks to try something on, they’re led into a hellish sweatshop that mimics real world working conditions behind cheap, disposable fashion. Next, an educational hub informs customers what they can do to help.

The project is meant to alert customers about an often neglected reality, and offer tips on what individual shoppers can do to help change working conditions in the garment industry.

I love this so much.

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