In early 2020, apparel brands and retailers cancelled US$40 billion worth of orders, with critical consequences for suppliers and workers. Their actions illustrate the power asymmetries in global supply chains and the unequal distribution of costs during crises. This article explores these dynamics through original survey data, supplier questionnaires, stakeholder interviews, a time-line analysis and trade data analysis. Findings point to certain limits of buyer power, reflected in the effective collaboration between suppliers and worker rights advocates in the “#PayUp” campaign. Yet buyers retain the power to squeeze suppliers with adverse impacts on workers, thus leading to calls for binding agreements.