Sharing Lessons to Improve Workers’ Lives

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 12, 2011

Although Vietnam has a different set of labor standards than Egypt, the vast majority of people who work in factories around the world are young women who migrate from rural communities to the city, in search of a better life.

This means that while they may all benefit from knowing how to protect themselves from harassment or learn how to calculate their paycheck, training programs have to be tailored to fit social, cultural and legal nuances.

Recently, the Levi Strauss Foundation released “Protecting the Rights of Garment Factory Workers,” a resource that pulls lessons and advice from innovative non-governmental organizations that have driven positive change in factories in Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

In the past decade, the Levi Strauss Foundation has been honored to support community partners in 16 countries that have provided services to over 1 million workers—several of these on the factory floors where Levi Strauss & Co. makes its products.

It’s no secret that labor organizations and suppliers have shared difficult, even bitter histories. However, in the course of this work, local community organizations have proven to be an invaluable resource on the factory floor:

• They facilitate two-way dialogues with factory management and build threads of communication and trust to catalyze improvements in the workplace.

• They share knowledge and deliver services to workers right on the factory floor.

• They develop and implement trainings on a set of topics that are important to workers and managers alike. We asked our local partners which issues were most critical.  Based on their assessments, we worked with them to design modules on how to calculate wages, address harassment and discrimination, understand labor contracts and communicate effectively.

Together with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), we developed this resource because we firmly believe in the importance of engaging workers in the issues affecting them in the workplace.

As Ayesha Barenblat, the Director of Advisory Services at BSR, says, “This type of open source sharing is desperately needed as a way to deepen the impact and scale of this work.”

We invite feedback and advice from those who test “Protecting the Rights…” It’s only by sharing lessons and innovations that we can build high-impact partnerships to improve the lives of apparel workers in the global supply chain.

Daniel Lee Levi Strauss Foundation (1)