TikTok: the new protest platform for Turkish workers

TikTok: the new protest platform for Turkish workers

Turkish workers are going viral. Below, a group of Turkish agricultural workers throw their buckets into the air, an ironic celebration of finishing the harvesting season in one of the ten worst countries to work in, according to the Global Rights Index.

With 285k views on Tiktok, Lütfi’s video is one example of how Turkish workers are taking to the social media platform to highlight their working conditions.

This TikTok video of Turkish agricultural workers ironically celebrating the end of the harvesting season reached 285k views

Under the presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, conditions have gradually declined for Turkish workers, with the Global Rights Index reporting repression of strikes and union-busting as major issues in the country.

Turkey was the seventh-largest exporter of cotton in 2020. But, in Sanliurfa where the video was taken, the Fair Labour Association reports 91% of the cotton workers have no formal contract. This leaves them vulnerable to illegal working hours and wages. In the FLA's report, 60% of households said they couldn’t support their family, and Syrian refugee workers are exploited even more, receiving half the minimum wage.

The viral videos are often comedic, making light of their dire working conditions. Workers in markets and construction sites, as well as the fields, are using the power of fun, wit and play to shine a light in the dark places of industries like cotton.

Barış Kaya, 25, was overjoyed to see his video of him making paving stones reach 1.7 million views on TikTok. “I felt like other people saw me,” he told the Guardian, “Like I was alive and actually existed in this world.”

Fortunately, there are factories in Turkey that do support their workers. Type ‘Turkey’ into our search bar and you’ll find products made fairly by Silverstick, Knowledge Cotton Apparel and Brava - all with footprints showing you the certifications that ensure workers like the ones in Lütfi’s video are paid and treated fairly.