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Apparel and Footwear Firms Sign AAFA-FLA Pact Against Forced Labor

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) are seeking to raise the bar on how workers in the industry are treated.

On Monday, 123 apparel and footwear companies signed the new “AAFA/FLA Apparel & Footwear Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment,” emphasizing a commitment to the fair treatment of workers in the global apparel, footwear and travel goods supply chain. Developed together by both associations, the commitment represents a proactive industry effort to address potential forced labor risks for migrant workers at all levels of apparel and footwear manufacturing.

By signing the pact, signatories commit to working with their partners to create conditions where no worker pays for their job, where workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement, and where workers are informed of the basic terms of their employment before joining the workforce. The companies signing the pledge also agree to work “seriously and effectively” to implement these practices and incorporate the commitment into their social compliance standards by Dec. 31, 2019, as well as to periodically report their actions through sustainability and/or modern slavery legal disclosures.

The companies signing the commitment include: Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, American & Efird, American Eagle Outfitters, Asics Corp., Columbia Sportswear, Delta Galil Industries, Eileen Fisher, Fanatics, Fruit of the Loom, Gildan Activewear, Kenneth Cole Productions, Komar, Levi’s, L.L.Bean, Lucky Brand, Lululemon Athletica, Nike Inc., Nordstrom, Patagonia, Perry Ellis International, PVH Corp., Ralph Lauren, Tommy Bahama, Under Armour and VF Corp.

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The AAFA and FLA created the Commitment to Responsible Recruitment to address the difficulties for individual companies alone to reduce potential forced labor risks for migrant workers in the global supply chain. The groups said real progress toward accomplishing this goal can be made only when the industry works collectively and collaboratively on the issue.

“Creating a more transparent supply chain has long been a focus of the apparel and footwear industry, and removing the possibility of forced labor is a major part of these efforts,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the AAFA. “Not only does this commitment show that our industry does not tolerate forced labor, but it also shows our customers that we take this issue seriously and are proactively working together as an industry to initiate measures to ensure these values are respected throughout the supply chain. We hope that many other members of our community will join us in the near future.”

Sharon Waxman, president and CEO of the FLA, said too often forced labor begins before a worker shows up at a factory, with recruitment practices requiring migrant workers to pay high fees just to secure a decent job in a foreign country.

“With this renewed commitment to responsible recruitment, we hope to bring the power of collective action to highlight these harmful, and sometimes deceptive, practices and protect workers against forced labor in global supply chains,” Waxman said.

Earlier this month, brands and retailers—including Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Designworks Clothing Company, Gap Inc., H&M Group, M&S, Nike Inc., Rowlinson Knitwear Limited, Royal Bermuda, Sears Holdings, Varner Retail and VF Corp.—signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s Turkmen Cotton Pledge, committing not to source cotton from Turkmenistan until forced labor in the sector has been eliminated.

The full text of the Commitment to Responsible Recruitment, details and information on how companies can join can be found here.

AAFA is the national trade association representing more than 1,000 apparel, footwear and other sewn products companies, and their suppliers. The organization provides expertise in supply chain management, trade policy and brand protection to help members navigate the complex regulatory environment and lower costs.

The FLA helps create lasting solutions to abusive labor practices by offering tools and resources to companies, delivering training to factory workers and management, conducting due diligence through independent assessments, and advocating for greater accountability and transparency from companies, manufacturers, factories and others involved in global supply chains. Companies affiliated with the FLA have already committed to addressing recruitment fees and other indicators of forced labor through the FLA Code of Conduct and Principles.