Apparel supplier No Sweat has received its first supply of T-shirts from a factory that has been turned around thanks to trade union intervention.

Jay Kerr, who runs the garment division at No Sweat, which campaigns against sweatshops, says the brand, which campaigns against sweatshops, wouldn’t normally order from a large factory such as Natchi Apparel in India, a division of the global apparel manufacturer Eastman Exports.

Justice for Jeyasre

In late 2022, however, Jay did an episode of the No Sweat Podcast on the murder of Jeyasre Kathiravel, an Indian Dalit woman garment worker who was allegedly killed by her supervisor at Natchi Apparel. 

“We interviewed the organisers at the Tamil Nadu Common Labour Union (TTCU) who Jeyasre was a member of, and which organised the historic campaign after her murder called Justice for Jeyasre,” explained Jay. The campaign resulted in the Dindigul Agreement, a landmark agreement to end gender-based violence and harassment in the factory. 

Thivya Rakini, the president of TTCU, explained how the factory had changed, with incidents of gender-based violence and harassment, and even verbal abuse or sexualised comments, now being reported and resolved quickly, with management being punished. 

“She spoke of a shift in the culture that this has caused and how it has put power in the hands of the workers,” added Jay. “This power is being seen in improvements being gained by the union that go beyond the Dindigul Agreement, such as health and safety regulations, an end of wage violations, improvement in the quality of the food in the canteen, the provision of transport for workers.” 

The Dindigul Agreement has transformed the factory

The Dindigul Agreement has transformed the factory

Organic tees and bags

The factory is making No Sweat’s jersey-style, ringspun organic cotton T-shirts and organic tote bags. In addition, the brand is working with an “upcoming young designer”, Lisa O’Sullivan, to create hoodies that will be produced at Natchi and should be available in 2025.

Jeeva Murugesan, TTCU’s general secretary, said: “We are very happy to have collaborated with No Sweat. Their programme of manufacturing T-shirts from factories with unionised workers promotes decent work in garment factories, which are otherwise known for exploitative conditions. Such purchasing practices are important, as it sends out a strong message to local suppliers that working with trade unions is good for their business. If fashion brands must truly enable Freedom of Association, they must learn from the purchasing model of No Sweat.”