One of the biggest changes we need to see in the fashion industry, is how garment factory workers are treated. Every worker has the right to a safe work environment with legal pay without exploitation. Many people assume garment worker exploitation only occurs outside of the U.S. but that is true. Many garment factories in California still don't follow ethical labor standards and progress must be made. Here's how the landmark passing of California's SB62, also known as the Garment Workers Protection Act, is changing the face of labor standards in California.
What is the SB62 Garment Worker Bill
The California state bill SB62, also known as the Garment Workers Protection Act, was created to enforce the state's minimum wage pay for garment workers. This bill is necessary because many garment workers are paid "Piece Rate" which means you are paid based on how many pieces you complete and not hourly. As you can imagine, the more complicated the garment or the slower you work, the less you are paid by the hour, and therefore it is easy to see workers paid below the legal minimum wage.
Garment Workers in California To Date
California employs the most garment workers in the U.S. with the Los Angeles metropolitan area hosting 2,000 manufacturers who employ 45,000 garment workers. The piece-rate pay system (assuming 12-hour work days) can result in an average hourly pay of $5.85. In a study completed by the Economic Policy Institute in 2017, the failure to pay workers minimum wage on a national scale is the equivalent to nearly $2 billion in earnings.
How the SB62 Act was Passed
This bill was unsuccessful when it was proposed in 2020, but was reintroduced and passed in 2021. The SB62 Act was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 27th, 2021. Alongside the Garment Worker Center the bill was also sponsored by Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. The Garment Worker Center has partnered with Remake, a nonprofit organization advocating for sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices in the fashion industry, to connect with consumers and raise awareness of this issue through social media campaigns. Over 100 brands and organizations, including names such as Eileen Fisher and Mara Hoffman, have supported the passing of this bill.
The impact of the SB62 Act
Under SB62, the piece-rate pay method is eliminated and factory owners will now have the pay the legal minimum wage, which in California is currently $15 an hour. Garment factories might also be liable for the re-paying of wages to employees alongside the brands who hired them. Overall, this bill is a top-down approach to addressing supply chain transparency by placing accountability on both manufacturers and the brands who contracted them.
Starting January 1, 2022, employees will be able to file a claim to the Labor Commissioners fining garment factories $200 per employee for every pay period the employee is paid by piece rate. In addition, the Labor Commissioner will have the authority to issue a stop order, or citation if this law is not followed.
The Future of Garment Workers
Looking ahead, SB62 may set a precedence for garment workers labor rights beyond California. One garment can require multiple vendors and suppliers from the fabric, to the buttons, to the factory workers who finally sew the garment together. Garment supply chains exude a level of complexity, paired with outsourcing manufacturing and utilizing subcontractors. The lack of transparency makes it difficult to pinpoint which parties can be held accountable for violation of labor rights. This bill can serve as a successful point of reference and blueprint for instilling joint liability for other states, and even other nations to follow.
Keeping factory workers safe and ensuring that they are receiving the legal pay they deserve is crucial in the movement towards changing the fashion industry. If your brand is on a mission to work with and support factories with these ethical standards already in place, join our platform today and get instant access to our vetted ethically certified factories.
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