The recent factory strikes in the UK have once again brought workers rights to the forefront of global issues. But the exploitation of workers is by no means confined to the current economic situation. Here No Sweat UK explain about their campaign working in solidarity with workers across the globe.
No Sweat is an activist campaign group that fights against sweatshop exploitation around the world. Run by volunteers, No Sweat looks to the anti-capitalist movement, the social justice movement and international workers movement to organise solidarity with those being exploited by the worlds leading brands everywhere around the globe, from the high streets of London to the backstreets of Bangladesh.
Sweatshop labour is modern global capitalism stripped bare. From child labour, forced overtime, poverty wages, to unsafe conditions, harassment of women workers and intimidation of trade unionists, this is the sweatshop reality.
No Sweat fights for a living wage for workers, safe working conditions at the point of production to the point of sale and the right of workers to form independent trade unions to give themselves a collective voice. All workers, in every country, deserve and need these basic rights.
No Sweat works in solidarity with sweatshop workers across the globe.
No Sweat works in solidarity with sweatshop workers across the globe. We have supported sweatshop workers in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Haiti and Bangladesh, and all of them have similar reports of long hours, forced overtime, dangerous conditions and serious mistreatment by managers.
In some cases workers have reported being refused toilet breaks for several hours at a time, women workers forced to take contraceptive pills, banned from having sexual relations and there are even cases of women workers having miscarriages at the work place and being refused help or the threat of losing their job if they leave to go to the hospital.
This is the serious level of exploitation we are fighting against and it happens across the world, on every continent, in every country.
Even in the UK sweatshop conditions exist
Even in the UK sweatshop conditions exist. Back in 2002 No Sweat teamed up with the GMB union to search for sweatshops in London’s East End and we found them, lots of them. People working in backstreet factories that looked as if they were built in Victorian times. Workers working long hours in unhealthy conditions for below minimum wage. In many cases the buildings were fire hazards and the fire exits were chained up!
The most prominent find we had in this campaign was of clothes being made in an East End sweatshop for the high street brand Topshop. We soon exposed them to the authorities and the press.
No Sweat aims to expose sweatshop abuse and make as much noise as possible against the those companies, like Primark, Gap and Nike who use sweatshop labour, and offer solidarity to the workers in the factories when they try to stand up for themselves and fight for better wages and conditions – No Sweat is about international solidarity.
The argument we hear most often in response to the campaign to end sweatshop exploitation is that these people have no alternative but to work in these conditions. The fact is that this argument is spot on…
People suffering in sweatshops don’t do it for the fun of it, they have no other choice. Often people have migrated to the city from the countryside and find themselves in a position of either grueling factory work or begging on the streets.
No Sweat doesn’t say close down the factory, it demands they improve it!
But this doesn’t excuse the awful conditions that people face in the factories. Everyone has the right to a safe and clean working environment and to be paid a living wage so that they can feed themselves and their families.
The companies that the products are often made for have multi-million dollar profit margins and can easily afford this but they don’t do it because they are focused on maximising profits for the benefit of their shareholders.
No Sweat doesn’t say close down the factory, its demands they improve it!
No Sweat doesn’t call for boycotts against any particular company because this will have a negative effect on the workers themselves. If a company fears a boycott because of a particular factory they will shut that factory down, declare the sweatshop gone and the problem solved, leaving those workers on the street, and then reopen the sweatshop somewhere else once the dust has settled.
The only time we should boycott a company is when the workers themselves call for an international boycott like workers with Coca-Cola recently asked for.
We can’t shop our way to freedom – the important thing is to voice our disgust
On a personal level, each individual has a consumer choice. If you don’t want to shop in a sweatshop abusing company don’t, but we can’t shop our way to freedom – the important thing is to voice our disgust and to get involved in the struggle!
Anyone can get involved in No Sweat and the more people who get involved the more noise we can make. We recently held a demo outside Primark to commemorate its second anniversary and the press come along to cover it. Check out the photos on the No Sweat website. We held a Fashion Show of Shame outside Primarks flagship store to protest against sweatshop exploitation. We made a lot of noise, got the public interested in the issue and had a lot of fun! Anyone can get in involved and be a part of this, just get in touch.
No Sweat also holds regular benefit gigs at The Cross King in London with some of the best punk and ska bands playing as well as some excellent political comedians like Mark Thomas, Stewart Lee and Simon Munnery (both appearing this summer).
If you want to read the full report of the East End campaign read the report No Sweat vs Topshop.