Queer Labour Behind the Label zine online launch

Queer Labour Behind the Label zine online launch

Today we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IADHOBIT) with the online launch of our zine – Queer Labour Behind the Label: a collection of stories from LGBTQI+ garment workers in Cambodia and Indonesia.

In recent years, fashion brands have tapped into the “pink pound”, releasing Pride collections and capitalising on LGBTQI+ struggles to sell fast-fashion. Meanwhile, garment workers in their supply chains – including queer workers – continue to face poverty wages, union busting, discrimination and other rights violations. Visibilising the stories of queer workers resisting intersecting labour rights violations and queerphobic treatment in their workplaces can help stop brands getting away with this pink-washing.

Queer Labour Behind the Label is a zine that brings together queer garment workers’ stories of everyday struggle, resistance and joy. We worked with Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) in Cambodia and Perempuan Mahardhika in Indonesia to gather the testimonies and images shared by workers that feature in this zine, which forms part of a proud queer history of DIY self-publishing. Throughout the zine we have used the local terms, language and phrases that workers themselves use to describe their identities. 

On IDAHOBIT 2023, and every day, Labour Behind the Label stands with queer workers around the world in our ongoing struggle for a world free from all forms of Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia. The struggle for queer liberation is inseparable from the struggle for workers’ power and through collective action we will win! 

If you love the online version of the Queer Labour Behind the Label Zine and would like a hard copy, you can sign up here throughout May and June 2023 and we will post copies to UK addresses. Keep an eye out for copies of the zine in independent bookshops and community spaces in London, Bristol and more! 

International Workers Memorial Day: Remember the dead, fight for the living!

International Workers Memorial Day: Remember the dead, fight for the living!

International Workers Memorial Day this year comes at the end of a week that started with the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza mass industrial homicide in Bangladesh, in which a preventable factory collapse killed at least 1138 garment workers, mainly young women, and left thousands injured or bereaved.

We call Rana Plaza a mass industrial homicide, taking the lead from trade unionists in Bangladesh, because the bosses, the factory owner and the fashion brands sourcing from Rana Plaza could have prevented it – but they chose not to. We say mass industrial homicide because prior to Rana Plaza there had already been plenty of “wake-up calls” for the global fashion industry, including the Tazreen Fashions fire in 2012, which killed 112 workers.

We say mass industrial homicide because when cracks appeared in the Rana Plaza building everyone knew it was unsafe, but despite workers’ protests factory bosses under pressure from global brands ordered workers to enter by threatening to dock a month’s wages. We say mass industrial homicide because the fashion industry extracts profit by driving a global race-to-the-bottom in working conditions, rewarding suppliers that pay poverty wages and suppress trade union organising. We say mass industrial homicide because on International Workers Memorial Day 2023, ten years on from Rana Plaza, global fashion brands are still profiting with impunity from working conditions that kill garment workers.

We know that fashion brands will concede nothing without a demand. This week, alongside Rana Plaza Solidarity Collective, we organised the actions and events described below, adding our voices to the hundreds of thousands of workers around the world demanding: “Rana Plaza, Never Again!

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On Sunday 23 April we took to the streets of central London to call out the high street fashion brands with blood on their hands. We denounced Primark, United Colours of Benetton and Zara: brands that sourced from Rana Plaza, pocketing profits from the miserable working conditions that led to the deadly disaster, yet dragged their feet on paying into the compensation fund for victims.

We left commemorative plaques at Primark and Zara and laid wreaths outside Benetton. We demanded Urban Outfitters and Levi’s stop risking workers lives and sign the International Accord, the only mechanism shown to improve factory safety through enforceability, independent oversight and trade union power. We called on H&M to ensure garment workers in their supply chain are paid a living wage, and heard about regulation needed to change the balance for garment workers.

We ended our Cost of Fashion walking tour by honouring, in grief and in rage, the memory of the 1138 people killed at Rana Plaza, reading the names and ages of every worker whose life was stolen on 24 April 2013 at the doorstep of Primark.

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On Monday 24 April, we held Rana Plaza anniversary events in East London and in Leicester. In East London we joined a memorial at Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel in the pouring rain, where our friends at Rainbow Collective had installed a beautiful memorial of 1138 clay hearts, one for each life lost, made with the help of community groups from across the East End, hanging in front of a banner of the 1138 names. We heard about the devastating tragedy and Rana Plaza survivors’ ongoing struggle for justice from Mayisha Begum, Labour Behind the Label, Nijjor Manush, Rainbow Collective, No Sweat, and Apsana Begum MP who also laid a wreath.

We then went to a packed Toynbee Hall, where Andrew O’Neill spoke with Mayisha Begum and Afzal Rahman about Rana Plaza and workers resistance in Bangladesh and Rainbow Collective screened their film ‘Rana Plaza 10 Years On’. In Leicester, trade unions, community groups, academics and a local MP gathered for an evening educational event, film screening and dinner. We watched the Rainbow Collective film and heard talks from local trade unionists about the struggle that UK workers face and how there are many similarities in terms of brand power and risks for workers. 

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On Wednesday 26, we held a Parliamentary event with the APPG for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion and Fashion Roundtable in Portcullis House, hosted by John McNally MP. We exhibited powerful photographs taken by Rainbow Collective and by Bangladeshi photographer and activist Taslima Akhter, showing the Rana Plaza collapse and workers and their families’ organised resistance in the decade since then. We screened Rainbow Collective’s film, through which Rana Plaza survivors addressed attendees about their ongoing pain and struggle for justice. 

We then heard from MPs and campaigners. Kerry McCarthy MP emphasised the need for corporate accountability throughout supply chains as opposed to consumer choice. Liz Twist MP spoke in support of a Fashion Watchdog – “a low cost intervention with the potential to deliver much better for workers” – explaining that workers rights abuses are often driven by poor relationship between retailers and suppliers in the garment industry. Rushanara Ali MP spoke about the work she had been involved in to advance workers’ rights in Bangladesh, in her capacity as Chair of the APPG on Bangladesh and as Trade Envoy, and underlined the need to keep up the pressure  at a domestic and international level, saying: “companies think they can get away with treating people in developing economies as though they don’t have value and that has to stop.”

Claudia Webbe MP spoke about the open secret of miserable conditions faced by garment workers in her constituency in Leicester – “we are seeing prison houses for workers, people whose lives are submitted to a ‘just-in-time’ production” – and denounced the government for for failing to tackle the situation. Rupa Huq MP connected the environmentally harmful fashion industry to the effects of climate change, particularly for Bangladesh. Mark Dearn from Corporate Justice Coalition called on MPs to pledge to support a new law on Business, Human Rights and the Environment to ensure corporate accountability for abuses in global supply chains and Hilary Marsh from Transform Trade encouraged MPs to support a Fashion Watchdog to regulate the garment industry.

Ten MPs signed the Rana Plaza Book of Commitment to honour the 1138 people who lost their lives in the Rana Plaza disaster and show their commitment to supporting new rules to ensure safety and human rights in fashion supply chains: John McNally MP, Catherine West MP, Liz Twist MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, Claudia Webbe MP, Rupa Huq MP, Carol Monaghan MP, Douglas Chapman MP and Ronnie Cowan MP. MPs also left with a Rana Plaza 10th Anniversary Policy Briefing setting out actions they can take to ensure an industrial homicide like Rana Plaza can never happen again.

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This International Workers Memorial Day we remember the lives of the 1138 workers killed at Rana Plaza a decade ago on 24 April 2013, and we commit to continuing the struggle, shoulder to shoulder with garment workers and trade unions around the world, for factory safety and workers power in the global garment industry.

Press Release: Protesters commemorating Rana Plaza 10th anniversary target London fashion stores

Press Release: Protesters commemorating Rana Plaza 10th anniversary target London fashion stores

For immediate release

Hook10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster // International Workers Memorial Day 2023

‘Remember the dead, fight for the living’ – protesters commemorating Rana Plaza disaster target Oxford Street fashion stores


  • Protesters gathered outside clothing stores in central London on Sunday 23 April 2023 to remember the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh on 24 April 2023 and denounce slow progress on garment workers rights a decade on.

On Sunday 23 April, protesters gathered outside a number of Oxford Street fashion stores in a ‘Cost of Fashion’ walking tour to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and honour the lives of the 1138 garment workers who were killed. 

Protesters shamed brands that had been sourcing from the ‘death-trap’ factory before it collapsed. Organisers Rana Plaza Solidarity Collective are calling on all clothing companies to sign up to the International Accord, to ensure a disaster like Rana Plaza never happens again. A number of brands including ASDA, IKEA, and Levi’s have not yet signed this binding agreement to improve workers’ safety in their supply chains.

Tyrone Scott from War on Want, one of the organisations in the Rana Plaza Solidarity Collective said: “The deadly Rana Plaza disaster was not an unavoidable accident – it was an entirely preventable disaster. Rana Plaza workers who made clothes for several UK high street fashion brands had previously raised safety concerns but were ignored. A decade on and garment workers are still facing unsafe working conditions and poverty wages. Clothing brands must urgently sign the International Accord on Fire and Building Safety and commit to guaranteeing safe workplaces, for genuine justice for the victims of Rana Plaza – and for all garment workers.”

Maya Thomas-Davis from Labour Behind the Label, another organisation in the Rana Plaza Solidarity Collective said: “A decade on from Rana Plaza, garment workers around the world are still organising against death-trap workplaces, union-busting and poverty pay while clothing brands pocket huge profits. Brands must clean up their act, stop driving a global race-to-the-bottom in working conditions, and sign the International Accord to guarantee factory safety through independent oversight and trade union power.”


Notes to editors

For media enquiries please contact:

  • Tyrone Scott – tscott@waronwant.org // +447927613381

  •  Maya Thomas-Davis – maya@labourbehindthelabel.org // +447491669231

High quality photos of the protest are available on request.

For further information: https://ranaplaza-solidarity.org/ 

The Rana Plaza Solidarity Collective is supported by the following organisations and individuals: Rainbow Collective, Traid, Nijjor Manush, Re-Make, Labour Behind the Label, War on Want, Oh So Ethical, No Sweat, Tansy Hoskins, Venetia La Manna. 

Press kit containing transcripts and recordings of interviews with trade union leaders in Bangladesh, background information, and other materials. 

Rana Plaza timeline: https://ranaplazaneveragain.org/timeline/

Feature photo credit: Angela Christofilou