Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dividends come first

Kohl’s, one of the US’s largest clothing retailers, cancelled orders of clothing worth approximately $100m from Korea and $50m from Bangaldeshi factories after the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and refused petitions from suppliers asking for the option to renegotiate payments. Kohl’s also furloughed 85,000 US staff and shuttered its 1,159 stores.

Then on 1 April, Kohl’s paid out $109m  (£85m) in dividends to shareholders. Between 2017 and 2019, Kohl’s paid dividends to its shareholders worth $1.2bn. 

“Brands like Kohl’s say they care about workers, and use their big name to talk about ethical sourcing. But it is a lie,” said Kalpona Akter, the founder of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, a union organisation supporting garment workers. “They cancel orders and refuse to pay for orders produced. When we need them most, they turn their backs. They need to do the right thing. They need to pay their bills.”

Scott Nova from the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), said that Kohl’s actions were tantamount to exploitation and exposed the huge power imbalance in the global garment supply chain 
“Kohl’s puts a grossly one-sided cancellation clause in its purchase agreements, allowing it to cancel, and refuse to pay suppliers when it decides to,” he said.  “The company has refused to pay for apparel that it ordered and that workers have already made, but the company somehow found a $100m to reward shareholders. It’s hard not to think of these actions as nothing more than a form of robbery.”
As Hasina, who worked in a Bangladesh factory supplying Kohl’s, explains, “I have given all my energy making clothes for very low wages. Manufacturers and fashion brands can profit off the clothes, but nobody cares for us when we are suffering.”

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