WORKER-DRIVEN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
THE NEW GOLD STANDARD
The underlying model established by the Fair Food Program is Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR)
WSR is a powerful response to Corporate Social Responsibility, one which answers the weaknesses in traditional 20th century models of supply chain monitoring, including lack of worker voice, superficial and easily outwitted auditing, and a lack of measurable accountability.
WSR provides a proven new form of power that ensures workers’ human rights are protected. These rights can include – according to the circumstances and priorities of the workers driving the program – the right to a safe and healthy work environment (including the right to work free from sexual harassment and sexual violence), the right to work free of forced labor or violence, and the right to freedom of association, among other fundamental rights
What Defines WSR?
The WSR paradigm is founded on the understanding that, in order to achieve meaningful and lasting improvements, human rights protections in corporate supply chains must be worker-driven, enforcement-focused, and based on legally binding commitments that assign responsibility for improving working conditions to the global corporations at the top of those supply chains. Several essential features distinguish the WSR approach from other models:
Worker organizations must be the driving force in the creation, monitoring, and enforcement of programs designed to improve their wages and working conditions.
Brands and retailers must sign legally binding agreements with worker organizations, and those agreements must require the brands to provide financial support to their suppliers to help meet the labor standards established by the program, and to stop doing business with suppliers who violate those standards.
Monitoring and enforcement mechanisms must be designed to provide workers an effective voice in the protection of their own rights, including extensive worker education on their rights under the program, rigorous workplace inspections that are effectively independent of brand and retailer influence, public disclosure of the names and locations of participating brands and suppliers, and a complaint mechanism that ensures swift and effective action when workers identify abuses.
In 2015, worker organizations, allies, and technical advisors came together to create the Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network for the purpose of expanding, promoting, and replicating this model in supply chains around the world. The WSR Network was founded by seven organizations:
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers
- Fair Food Standards Council
- Migrant Justice
- Partners for Dignity & Rights (formerly National Economic and Social Rights Initiative)
- T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
- Worker Rights Consortium
WSR PROGRAMS AND ADAPTATIONS
The Accord is an independent, legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to work towards a safe and healthy garment and textile industry in Bangladesh. The Accord covers factories producing Ready-Made Garments (RMG) and at the option of signatory companies, home textiles and fabric & knit accessories. https://bangladeshaccord.org/
Milk With Dignity is an independent, farmworker-led labor standard which works with farmers and farmworkers to ensure dignified working conditions on Caring Dairy farms. www.milkwithdignity.org
August 15th, 2019 marked the announcement of a legally-binding Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) agreement to address long-standing issues of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the Lesotho-based suppliers of several major apparel brands.
This development represents a tremendous breakthrough for Lesotho garment workers, who, though their unions, have been pursuing a worker-driven approach to stop these abuses. It also represents a significant new expansion of the WSR model, which is now operative on three continents and is quickly winning recognition as the only proven effective approach for protecting workers’ fundamental human rights in global supply chains after decades of failed, corporate-led social responsibility efforts. In the face of overwhelming odds, workers at the Nien Hsing Textile Co. in Lesotho came together to demand respect and justice in the workplace, and an end to a pervasive environment of gender-based violence.
Most commercial construction projects and many multi-family residential construction projects are done with union labor ensuring that workers are treated with dignity and respect. But in industry sectors where unionization is not prevalent, such as single-family residential and multi-family residential in the suburbs, workers face rampant violations of their human rights.
Read more about this crisis in the December 2019 report released by the WSR-Network, “Building Dignity and Respect: The Case for Worker-driven Social Responsibility in the Twin Cities Construction Industry”:
Gender Justice for Lesotho Garment Workers
Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety
Independent Complaint Mechanism for Hollywood Workers
Milk With Dignity
Building Dignity and Respect
Model Alliance: RESPECT Program
Academic and Institutional Citations for the Fair Food Program and Worker-driven Social Responsibility