Cheap clothing comes at a cost: some of the clothes we wear are manufactured by children who suffer difficult working conditions. Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Lesotho, Morocco, the Philippines, Portugal and Thailand are among the countries in which children are believed to help produce garments.

Film Review: The True Cost — Film Explores the Hidden Price of Cheap Clothes


Released 2015 | Rating: PG-13 (thematic elements and disturbing images)

Written and directed by Andrew Morgan | Produced by Michael Ross | 92 minutes

Review by Sharon L. Fawcett

One in six people on the planet work in the global fashion supply chain, making fashion the most labor-dependent industry on earth. “The True Cost”—a breathtaking and heartbreaking documentary—reveals how consumer fashion choices impact these workers, the rest of us, and our world.

Eighty billion garments are purchased each year globally—400 percent more than two decades ago. The industry that once had two fashion seasons annually now has 52 as retailers peddle new product weekly, supplying shoppers with an endless fix of inexpensive clothing.

What is the consequence of this fashion obsession—the true cost of “fast fashion?” According to the documentary, it is the suicides of hundreds of thousands of Indian cotton farmers unable to escape debts to biotechnology and agrochemical companies, the decimation of local garment industries in low-income countries swamped by donations of cast-off clothing, and the toll taken on the earth’s ecosystems as every step in a garment’s life threatens them.

The-True-CostThe enormous quantities of chemicals and natural resources used to produce the raw material for clothing (such as cotton and leather), manufacture the product, and ship goods worldwide, have made the fashion industry the second most polluting industry on earth, second only to the fossil fuel industry. They have also led to high rates of disease and disability among people exposed to this pollution—people who often cannot afford medical treatment.… Read the rest

International Workers, Employers, Governments Call on Uzbekistan to End Forced Labor, Child Labor

Press release: June 11, 2013

The International Labour Organization supervisory body recommends that the Uzbek government to take urgent and serious action to end forced labour of children and adults in the cotton sector.

(Geneva) – The Government of Uzbekistan should take urgent and significant steps to end systematic forced labour of children and adults in the cotton sector, said workers, employers, and governments from around the world, during the hearing of the International Labour Organization Committee on the Application of Standards. The CAS, the tripartite supervisory body of the ILO tasked with assuring that all governments abide by international labour standards, released its conclusions from the hearing today.

“We commend the international representatives of workers, employers and governments for recommending the Uzbek government to invite a high level ILO mission to monitor the 2013 cotton harvest,” said Vasila Inoyatova, Director of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Ezgulik. “Their recommendations respond to the facts, including the deaths of Navruz Muysinov, Igor Yachkevskiy, Aziz Bakhtiyorov, and Umid during the 2012 cotton harvest.”

As highlighted by the German workers and Education International, the state system of forced child labour is serious, systematic and continuous. The Uzbek government has already mobilized children as young as age 10 as well as adults, to plough and weed cotton fields. On April 19, the deputy governor of Namangan region beat seven farmers for planting onions instead of cotton. As was the case during last fall’s cotton harvest, the forced labour of government employees this spring has again disrupted the delivery of essential public services, including health care and education.… Read the rest

The CLC’s and Cotton Campaign’s Protest of the Use of Forced Child Labor and Adult Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields


When you are a child labor activist, you spend a surprising amount of time sitting at your desk writing emails and blogs or in meetings with federal officials and others concerned about child labor. Opportunities for street activism are not common, but earlier this month, the members of the Child Labor Coalition and the Cotton Campaign hit the streets for a protest (video) in Washington, D.C. to send the government of Uzbekistan a message: stop the forced labor of a million-plus children and adults in your annual cotton harvest.

Every year, Uzbekistan’s ruling elite forces children and adults – students, teachers, nurses, doctors, public servants and private sector employees  –  to pick cotton under appalling conditions. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits, or worse. Some harvesters have reported being beaten because they did not meet their cotton quota.

Uzbekistan’s government is unique in its complicity in bringing out about widespread forced labor. The country is one of the largest cotton producers in the world, and Uzbek cotton sometimes finds its way into the U.S. apparel industry. More than 130 apparel companies have signed a pledge that they will not knowingly use Uzbek cotton in their garments.

Despite this widespread concern in the apparel industry and intensifying scrutiny from non-government organizations all over the world, the regime, led by dictator Islam Karimov, has steadfastly refused to abandon forced labor in the country’s cotton fields. Still, persistent pressure from activists may have altered the harvest a little. This year for the first time, fewer schools with young students were closed and fewer young students were compelled to harvest cotton. However, an even greater number of teens and young adults were forced to go to the fields and work for pennies an hour under conditions that are often very difficult.

It’s not always easy to get the attention of one of the world’s most brutal dictators, but that’s what the advocacy community did during New York City’s Fashion Week in September 2011, when several CLC members and the Cotton Advocacy Network successfully pressured event organizers into ousting Uzbekistan’s Gulnara Karimova from the prestigious fashion show. A designer and, at the time, an Uzbek diplomat, Gulnara is the daughter of Uzbekistan’s brutal leader Islam Karimov. Gulnara’s fashion line was the perfect vehicle for highlighting the abuses of her father’s regime because cotton is a common component in many clothing items. Thanks to our protest, Gulnara was forced to move her fashion show to a private restaurant where attendees and the media were met with our chants and picketing.

Flash forward 16 months and the Cotton Campaign learned that Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov was about to visit Washington, DC to seek increased support from the U.S. government for Uzbekistan. Rumor has it that Uzbekistan wants the U.S. to leave behind hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment when the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan.

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New Report Grades Apparel Companies on Efforts to Combat Slavery

News from Free2Work and Not for Sale:

We are pleased to announce the release of a report ranking over 300 apparel brands on their efforts to address child and forced labor.   Modern-day slavery, which currently affects more than 30 million people, is used throughout the production of many clothing products sold on U.S. shelves.  Apparel Industry Trends: From Farm to Factory is the first comprehensive report of its kind.

The report urges the clothing sector forward by offering best practice examples from industry leaders and by pointing out brands that are fueling modern-day slavery through their negligence.  Free2Work grades are only an indication of a company’s efforts against slavery–not of broader working conditions.  We hope this will help urge the industry forward in creating freedom and dignity, as well as help companies and consumers understand how they are connected to labor abuses within the products they produce and consume.

The report was pre-released in a presentation on Nov. 13 in Ankara, Turkey, at the United Nations General Assembly expert group meeting on “Human Trafficking & Global Supply Chains.” The meeting included corporate, government, labor union, and NGO leaders from around the globe.

In the coming weeks, we will be hosting a webinar for interested parties to learn more about this comprehensive report. Once we have settled upon an exact date and time, we will pass along the information.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to end child and forced labor in our lifetime.… Read the rest