US watchdog uncovers violence against pro-union workers at an Indian factory

In a major victory for workers, the intervention of the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) has led to (some form of) justice for the workers of Shahi Exports, one of India’s largest garment exporters. When workers began to unionise at one of Shahi Exports’ many factories, the managers became vindictive and suspended them. The report by WRC documents death threats, casteist attacks and violent misogyny [1]. The reported threats are terrifying – “These whores are trying to close the factory. Beat her and kill her.” The Guardianreports that the worker “was then beaten and had her clothes torn and her necklace, mobile phone and handbag stolen.” When WRC first asked Shahi Exports to take action they refused, claiming the managers had done nothing wrong. Then WRC released a report and began to put pressure on their high-profile clients like H&M, Benetton and Abercrombie & Fitch. Finally, three months after the violence, the company has begun to take action – terminating the managers, reinstating the suspended workers, paying them back pay and agreeing to negotiate and recognise the Karnataka Garment Workers’ Union.

Venkat T., Srividya Tadepalli & Thomas Manuel

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