According to a two-year investigation conducted by the Worker Rights Consortium, female workers at Taiwanese-owned factories in Lesotho, Africa that make jeans for Levi Strauss, Wrangler, and Lee, among others, were “regularly” being coerced and / or forced into sexual relationships with mangers and supervisors to “keep their jobs or gain promotion.”
As detailed by The Guardian, the report “also alleges that supervisors who were found to have engaged in sexual harassment, bribery or other forms of misconduct were usually transferred between departments, rather than being disciplined,” and that “workers’ right to [unionize] was suppressed, preventing them from collectively raising their concerns.”
The pervasiveness of the abuse, and clear lack of disciplinary measures, emboldened many lower ranking male employees to participate in similar behavior as well.
According to the report, the sexual abuse aimed at the female employees not only violates “workers’ rights under Lesotho’s labour laws,” it also goes against “international standards and the codes of conduct of the brands sourcing from the factories.”
Based on its findings, WRC suggested that, instead of terminating their contracts with the factories’ parent company, Nien Hsing, brands “use their business relationship to leverage the supplier to change its practices,” saying that “will have a tremendous impact on the lives of women workers who will no longer fear going to work.”
In response, Levi Strauss & Co and Kontoor Brands, owner of Lee and Wrangler, said in a joint statement that they are “committed to working to protect workers’ rights and foster wellbeing at third-party supplier factories, so that all workers at these facilities, especially female workers, feel safe, valued and empowered.”
The brands also signed “enforceable agreements with labour and women’s rights groups to eliminate gender-based violence” for the more than 10,000 workers at Nien Hsing’s five Lesotho factories.
You can read more about it at The Guardian.