Our Criteria

We promote clothing produced by democratic and independent worker associations where workers have an effective, collective voice in determining their wages and working conditions. Such associations can be labor unions, that is, associations of workers recognized by law that have the power to negotiate a contract with management that specifies workers' rights, wages, and benefits, and that allow workers to file formal complaints alleging violations of the contract. Another type of association that provides workers with an effective voice in the workplace is a worker-owned cooperative, that is, an entity in which the workforce owns the company; decisions regarding significant matters are made democratically by the worker-owners; and both the labor involved in running the enterprise and the proceeds that result are shared on a democratic basis. Read more... Why do we promote clothing made by democratic unions and worker-owned coops?

General Requirements

1) Labor Standards

We expect workplaces that make products listed in the "Shop with a Conscience" Consumer Guide to have achieved or to be striving towards local and international fair labor standards, ensuring:

  • Healthy and safe working conditions.
  • Wages and benefits sufficient to lift workers' families out of poverty.
  • Treatment with respect, dignity, and justice.

2) Knowledge of Labor Standards

The retailer and the supplier are both responsible for ensuring decent working conditions.  Therefore, the retailer must have sufficient knowledge of applicable local labor laws, regulations, and international standards to know when workers’ rights are and are not enforced.

3) Working Conditions at Other Suppliers

Although we only require information about the production facilities involved in the manufacturing of the products to be listed in the "Shop with a Conscience" Consumer Guide, we urge featured retailers to sell only sweatfree products. We reserve the right to reject an application based on either a) credible information that any of the retailer’s products are made in sweatshop conditions and/or are made in places where workers are not free to exercise their associational rights without fear of retaliation; or b) the lack of reliable information about the conditions under which any of the retailer's products are made.

Requirements for retailers sourcing from unions or worker cooperatives

The retailer must be able to demonstrate that the union or coop truly represents the interests of workers.

Unfortunately, illegitimate unions are not uncommon in the garment industry. These unions do not represent workers' interests and instead hinder the genuine exercise of associational rights by preventing workers from forming and joining unions of their choice.  Examples of such fake unions include unions whose leaders are members of management, unions that were formed by management or a government agency, unions that do not seek to bargain for benefits above the legal minimum, or unions that conclude a collective contract that does not provide for any benefits above those already provided by law.  The existence of this type of union in a factory is not evidence that workers' associational rights are being respected.

Similarly, there are worker-owned cooperatives in the garment industry where decisions regarding significant matters, such as choosing a manager, are not made democratically, and where the labor involved in running the enterprise, and the wages and other benefits that result, are not shared on a democratic basis.  This type of coop is not evidence that workers’ associational rights are being respected.

Requirements for retailers not sourcing from unions, worker cooperatives, or other type of democratic and independent worker associations

In the absence of a legitimate union or worker cooperative the retailer must work to ensure that workers can have an effective, collective voice in determining their wages and working conditions.  First, an authorized representative of the production facility must agree to take proactive steps to ensure that workers can freely exercise their associational rights without fear of retaliation.  When filling out the on-line application for the "Shop with a Conscience" Consumer Guide, the retailer will be directed to a statement describing these steps.  The statement must be signed by an authorized production facility representative, and distributed to workers in their primary language(s).

In addition, the retailer must present a realistic plan for ensuring the full respect for workers' labor rights and human rights and for increasing workers' wages to a living wage level within a reasonable period of time.  This plan should include worker education and management training, and also address the retailers' own purchasing practices, including product pricing and delivery schedules.

Finally, workers must be able to easily and confidentially report violations of their rights to a credible third-party organization, such as a union, non-governmental organization, and/ or independent monitor.

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