How PayUp Got Fashion Companies to Payout $22 Billion

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Capitalism works when companies pay for good and services, when companies make deals and don’t pay for what they ordered then things fall apart. This is exactly what happened last year in the fashion industry, and it was the workers who suffered the most. The owners of companies like JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and others had deals in place with factories to produce clothing which they should have paid for but failed to do so. These were international deals which smaller countries have a hard time enforcing (meaning the large multinationals got away with breaking the law due to their size).

Then the #PayUp movement started and campaigned against these unethical companies. By March of last year they got pledges from many companies to honour their contracts (valued at $22 billion). This money would go to pay the owners and workers of the companies originally sourced by the large multinationals. To date many of paid, but there are still a few outliers.

By the summer of 2020, #PayUp had been shared on social media millions of times. A Change.org petition, which was sent to over 200 fashion executives directly, garnered nearly 300,000 signatures calling on companies to pay for the cancellations. Behind the scenes, NGOs and activist groups like Remake, the Worker Rights Consortium and Clean Clothes Campaign moved in tandem to negotiate with brands.

This pressure was combined with direct action by workers around the world. In response to factory shutdowns that left thousands in the apparel industry without jobs, workers in Myanmar went on strike, eventually securing a wage bonus and union recognition through a two-week sit-in. In Cambodia, around one hundred workers marched to the Ministry of Labor to submit a petition requesting compensation after their factory shut down. When they weren’t offered a resolution, protesters continued their march to the prime minister’s house, where they were blocked by nearly 50 police officers.

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