An exciting new clothing brand called No Chains, which is produced free of sweatshop and slave labor, debuted in Thailand on June 4, 2010. The brand gives 100 percent of its returns back to the workers, truly embodying the phrase “fair trade”. The name comes from metaphorical and literal references of how garment workers are generally treated in factories industry wide, including being chained to a factory by debt, bondage, by bosses and the global production cycle.
No Chains was developed by two separate worker-owned cooperatives- Dignity Returns in Thailand and La Alameda in Argentina. Dignity Returns was established in 2003 by ex-employees of a company that produced apparel for major sporting goods brands. The workers at those factories were treated horribly, working continuously, and given addictive drugs to keep them awake. They united together because they didn’t want to have a factory or boss controlling their lives any longer. La Alameda grew out of a popular assembly area in Argentina during the economic crisis of 2001. It served as a way to answer some of the most prominent problems that were affecting the local people. The garment cooperative was developed as a way to provide dignified work to those who were affected by the crisis.
No Chains is clearly an innovative defender of workers rights. The following is the brand philosophy, in their own words, of how they expect to keep their standard high and message central:
- No Chains acts as a living model of self-management by workers – the possibility of it, and of producing good quality clothes at reasonable prices, while having decent work conditions. The No Chains cooperatives will encourage formation of other self-managed worker cooperatives, for example by laid-off workers, including training and advice for them.
- No Chains will provide material means for the member cooperatives to keep up their fight and support for workers’ rights – for example, sheltering and helping laid off workers fight for their jobs. It will strengthen their capacity to remain independent and uncompromising in supporting workers’ rights.
- No Chains will use the brand – the profile and image in the public eye – to highlight workers’ issues to the mainstream public. For example, it can make T-shirts with designs on the theme of the struggle, and publicize news on the No Chains website. At each season’s launch of new designs, it can highlight current issues in the global garment industry through video or photos.
- Creating a brand which draws workers and consumers away from dependence and sustenance for the exploitative rest of the garment industry, and which can fuel momentum for effective legislation against sweatshops and exploitative brand owners.
Currently, screen printed t-shirts are the only product offered. The t-shirts showcase sayings such as “Dignity Returns”, “Another World Is Possible” and “Save Our Lives, Save Our Earth”. If interested in purchasing, visit to NoChains.org and go to the “Our Products” section. Other garment cooperatives will be adding onto their business creating a diverse selection of apparel. In the future, No Chains hopes that other types of cooperatives will join their efforts, offering a variety of goods from bags to ceramics.
Dignity Returns and La Alameda formed No Chains as a way to show that exploitation and sweatshop conditions are a necessary part of the garment industry today. They want to call on other cooperatives and garment worker groups around the world to join the brand as it develops. Hopefully, many more brands can follow in their footsteps and buyers can start to see that this is a viable way to do business.
To help their cause, spread the word about No Chains ideology to your friends and family. With an established following, No Chains can use its public presence not only to denounce other exploitative brands through campaigns, but also to offer a living model of non-exploitative production that others can emulate.
Check out ILRF’s Sweatfree Campaign to learn more about the abusive and unjust conditions that other workers face throughout the world. You can also view our Shop with a Conscience Guide which features companies that source from these two factories.