January 19, 2022

How your action powers superstar movements

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From Krysta Bisnauth, Freedom United

It’s that time of the year when we celebrate our achievements, give thanks for our amazing community, and get some rest before the next phase of the good fight!  

We are taking a look back at one of our most dynamic campaign actions that keeps producing wins in surprising ways – our fashion brands action, particularly targeting Nike.  

Over a year of relentless action

Last year, we joined with hundreds of human rights organizations, including over 70 Uyghur groups, to form the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region. Sitting on the Coalition’s steering committee, we have campaigned both privately and publicly for top global brands to ensure their supply chains are free of Uyghur forced labor.

In September 2020, we launched our fashion brands action so you could write directly to three of the world’s biggest clothing brands by revenue – Nike, Zara and Uniqlo – urging them to sign the Coalition’s Call to Action, exit the Uyghur Region at every level of their supply chains and end ties to suppliers implicated in the forced labor system. 

In 2020 and 2021, we helped organize protests at New York, London and Paris fashion weeks, making global news and calling attention to the fashion industry’s complicity in Uyghur forced labor.  

In October 2021, we launched a quick action to gather signatures to share with the top 5 Nike investors ahead of the company’s annual general meeting during which they considered a proposal to implement a human rights assessment of its supply chain. Almost 6000 of you answered the call within days!   

Though Nike didn’t adopt the human rights assessment resolution, an astonishing 27% of company shareholders voted for the proposal. This means that over a quarter of Nike’s own investors are no longer taking Nike on their word or accepting Nike not even doing the bare minimum to ensure their supply chains are free of Uyghur forced labor.  

After receiving our petition urging the U.S. to ban Uyghur cotton, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced new withhold-release orders (WROs) in 2020 to block goods made with forced labor in China. These orders were later strengthened in 2021 to block all imports of raw fibers, apparel, and textiles originating from the Uyghur Region

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act introduced in 2020 is so close to being passed in the U.S. despite being lobbied against by Nike and other companies. The Act not only blocks goods manufactured in the Uyghur Region but requires companies to disclose their ties to the region and so will have significant repercussions for Nike. 

Since launching our Call to Action, seven major brands have publicly signed onNike still has not.  

NBA player for the Boston Celtics Enes Kanter put Nike under the microscope this year publicly asking them to sign our Call to Action or stop pretending to be committed to “ethical and responsible manufacturing.” He told his followers, “Don’t forget, every time you put those shoes on your feet, or you put that T-shirt on your back, there are so many tears and so much oppression and so much blood behind it all.” 

The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Lithuania and New Zealand have recently announced diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The U.S. explicitly cited human rights violations as the reason for not attending clearly believing that the games are tainted by the ongoing persecution of Uyghurs. Nike, however, seems to have no scruples about the games and is the official sponsor of Team USA.  

You’ve made all this happen There is no movement with supporters like youWe know that sometimes it might seem like a drop in the ocean to sign a petition or write to targets, but we want you to know that every signature and every email counts.   We know it and the Uyghur community feels it. At the 2021 New York Fashion Week protestOmer Kanat, the director of Uyghur Human Rights Project, thanked Freedom United for giving hope to the movement. 
If you’d like to contribute to our community building power for change, we invite you to consider making a donation. Thank you! 
See you in the new year
We still have much, much further to go. Nike must sign the Call to Action and, as everyone from Enes Kanter to their own shareholders knows, instead continues to live in denial about the state of its supply chains.   

Every additional voice makes a difference, so we hope you’ll share the campaign with your friends and networks. If you’re not on social media, consider forwarding this email.   

We can’t wait to see how far we can get in 2022!   

In solidarity,  
Krysta and the team that supports the Freedom United community
Krysta Bisnauth
Advocacy, Freedom United
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