Dignity Returns

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In Thailand, Dignity Returns has been a well-known worker cooperative which has struggled hard since their start, to stay viable, and also to help other laid-off or unjustly treated factory workers. Their struggle first began when 900 factory workers of Bed & Bath fought for months to gain just and legal compensation from their employer who had closed the factory and left suddenly, in 2002.iv For three months, 400 of the workers continued fighting at the Ministry of Labour, and they achieved more than cash compensation - they got a revised law on worker compensation that would benefit all workers in the country.

More recently in the last two years of economic hardship and increased multinational repression against unionized workers, Dignity Returns has had more occasions to respond to the calls of workers seeking justice and compensation from irresponsible capital. Triumph International announced 1,959 job cuts in its large garment factory in Thailand in 2009, to open another in a remote, non-unionized factory, supposedly due to economic hardship brought by the crisis. The strongly unionized Thai factory led by Jittra Cotchadet fought hard for eight months against the company, and even began their own production of lingerie while camped out in front of the factory and at the Ministry of Labour. Before this, when 41 Worldwell workers that were subcontractors to Triumph were laid off suddenly, Dignity Returns workers also helped them with a place to stay, advice for their struggle, and organization of a cultural festival to protest their layoffs.v

In short, the two worker cooperatives have played a significant role in providing a safe and helping space for exploited workers, in part because they are secure in their own livelihood and the freedom they achieved through struggle, and in turn as they have no ‘interest’ (not seeking to add to their own power) they have the trust of workers and the community. Furthermore they have engaged independent artists, academics, students, NGOs and the media, to enable them to extend their important movement-building role. They are well reported in local media.

More Information

  1. No Chains, global sweatshop-free garment cooperative chain
  2. videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/dignityreturns