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Remake Punches Up Levi’s Protest

Remake continues to badger the big one.

The global advocate for ethical fashion has ramped up its pressure campaign to get Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) to sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment lndustry, a nine-year-old agreement that guarantees factory-worker well-being that has been inked by 183 other companies.

“For the Accord to be maximally effective, all major brands like Levi’s sourcing in Asia must sign on by the end of the two-year extension agreement next August 2023,” Remake said. It added that an estimated 25,000 garment workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan would get guaranteed health and safety benefits if Levi’s agreed to it.

After protesting at 18 Levi’s stores in seven countries, inserting information about the accord into pockets of merchandise at them and sending more than 2,700 emails to the company’s executives and board of directors during its “Week of Action” in early September, Remake is now launching more in-person actions against Levi’s in at least six cities. It also emailed a letter to company CEO Chip Bergh Monday from itself and 20 workers’ unions and civil groups in Bangladesh, North America, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan urging him to sign.

Among other things, the letter addresses Levi’s use of third-party auditors at its Asian factories to determine health and safety. “Unlike other programs that purport to address factory safety, the Accord includes a central role for workers, something we know to be vital to any effective labor rights program,” it reads. “Workers and their unions have been able to participate in safety inspections, sharing their unique knowledge about day-to-day operations in the building. Workers have also been an integral part of the remediation process through the Accord’s independent complaint mechanism and participate in OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] planning through factory-level safety committees.”

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On Oct. 6, when Levi’s held its third-quarter investor call explaining its missed sales of $30 to $40 million for the period, Remake and its supporters took to Twitter to urge some of the company’s biggest shareholders, including BlackRock and Vanguard Group CEO Mort Buckley, to call on LS&Co. adopt the agreement.

“Levi’s has had all the time in the world to dramatically transform its factories into truly good places to work—which is the goal—and has failed to deliver. The Accord represents an opportunity for Levi’s to dramatically raise the bar of what we all expect of a garment factory. Garment factories should be healthy, safe, good places to work. Full stop. When Levi’s and the rest of the apparel industry is aligned behind its garment workers by signing the International Accord, we can move beyond making factories incrementally better every decade towards actually banishing the specter of unsafe and unhealthy, oppressive working conditions,” said Elizabeth Cline, director of advocacy and policy at Remake.

Levi’s response has remained the same. “Our Terms of Engagement current assessments are based on industry-leading standards and local-country laws, conducted by specialized third-party experts. Following a risk-based approach, we also conduct third-party assessments with direct suppliers operating in Cambodia and Pakistan, with processes in place to take corrective action wherever deemed necessary. In 2022, we’ll complete phase two of our assessment in Pakistan and our third-party grievance reporting hotline will expand to all factories across Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Pakistan,” it said in a letter it distributed to store protestors.

And its recently released sustainability report reads: “Overall, our approach emphasizes the need for workers to be treated fairly and equitably by managing compliance as a foundational element. The Supplier Code of Conduct requirements are applicable to every factory, subcontractor, licensee, agent or affiliate that manufactures or finishes products for LS&Co., including our company-operated factories.”