Improving Working Conditions in Apparel and Beyond
Consumers know the apparel industry through major brands and large companies like Levis and Liz Claiborne and through retailers like The Gap, Macy’s, and Zara. Apparel production, however, is splintered among thousands of little known contractors that carry out the design, cutting, and sewing and pressing / packaging of apparel products in the US and throughout the world. Contractors compete in a market with large numbers of companies, low barriers to entry, limited opportunities for product differentiation, and intense price-based competition. This creates a challenging environment for assuring that workers receive adequate wages and benefits and work in safe and secure conditions. Severe violations of labor protections are well known in the US and abroad.
Researchers at HCTAR have been involved in a series of major studies regarding the relationship between apparel production practices and human resource policies. More recently, David Weil has headed a series of studies, funded by the Sloan Foundation and the U.S. Department of Labor to look at traditional and innovative methods to regulate work conditions in the US and international apparel industry. Insights from these studies have led to additional research on the relation of industry structure, work organization, and employer practices on compliance with workplace laws in other industries.
This research provides insight into both the challenges and opportunities arising in regulating supply chains, employer networks, and other emerging industry sectors. Published and working papers from this research are available below.