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Garment Workers Win $22 Billion in Historic Victory Against Wage Theft

The PayUp campaign has clawed back $22 billion from apparel companies owed to factories and workers, and they’re just getting started.

In March 2020, Amanda Lee McCarty was laid off from her job.

For years, she had been working in the fashion industry as a buyer and product developer. But as COVID-19 cases surged and lockdown orders were implemented across the world, retailers were faced with a dramatic plummet in consumer demand for clothing. McCarty, who had been the sole breadwinner in her family for most of her life, was left without a steady income or health insurance.

McCarty wasn’t the only one in the global apparel industry whose future was thrust into uncertainty.

Thousands of miles away, in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, apparel factories had just received catastrophic news from retailers in the West. In order to offset the financial losses of the pandemic, executives had made a swift and nearly universal decision: They were going to steal $40 billion from their most vulnerable workers.

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