Here in the United States, working people have come together to demand $15 an hour and better jobs. And in cities and towns across Cambodia the chants of working people have also pierced the air, demanding an equally important number: $177.
Men and women in Cambodia have been demanding a $177 monthly minimum wage since 2013. According to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, the monthly living wage in Cambodia is $1,021 – far higher than the $140 per month minimum wage that the 700,000 garment workers in the country currently make. When the Cambodian government recently approved a minor increase from $128, businesses claimed higher wages would hurt profits. Though Cambodian garment exports account for nearly $5 billion per year, the Garment Manufacturers’ Association actually lobbied for a lower wage.
Many of the unions in Cambodia rejected the small increase and walked out of negotiations after that proposal was announced. Explained Coalition of Cambodian Democratic Workers Union President Athit Kong, “The increase is not enough, because it won’t help workers to have decent living standards.”
So far companies like H&M, Zara, Walmart and Gap have refused to support calls for a $177 wage, even though they’re reliant on the Cambodians who work in 700 factories across the country to produce low-cost clothing, all while they reap enormous profits.
These corporations wield immense power in dictating standards for how manufacturers produce and ship their goods across their supply chains. That’s why we are calling on these retailers to support the men and women who make the clothes for their stores, and endorse a $177 monthly wage as the first step on a path to a livable wage in Cambodia.
We also need your help. On December 10, you can change your profile picture to the $177 logo and send this tweet to the brands that are refusing to care for the employees along their supply chain: “Hey @Zara @HM @Gap @Walmart – it’s time to care for the employees in your supply chain. Cambodians need $177! #WeNeed177”
We know that change is possible if people around the world speak up together in one clear voice for the better wages and better lives that all men and women in Cambodia deserve.