There is an underlying assumption that "Made in USA" is synonymous with high labor standards and good working conditions. Many people choose to support "Made in USA" products because it boosts our economy and avoids the exploitative labor practices seen on the news globally. But does an address automatically ensure high labor practices? No. The US faces factory labor issues too and that is why we always encourage you to dig deeper and do your due diligence.
Where it's happening in America
“According to a report published last September by the Garment Worker Center, abuse is common in many of the LA facilities that supply Made in U.S.A. clothing companies and they employ mostly undocumented Latinos” (McGregor). In 2017 an article came out in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Behind a $13 shirt, a $6-an hour worker” that explained the truth behind some Los Angeles garment factories. This article follows Forever 21 garment workers, many of them making no more than $7 an hour and working 10 hours or more a day. Several of these workers have filed claims with the state. Several companies that have had claims filed against them and paid to settle. However, Forever 21 has not paid a dime to settle these claims. Forever 21 gets away with this because they claim they are a retailer and not a manufacturer.
Another company that has factories in Los Angeles is Fashion Nova. Fashion Nova is promoted all over instagram due to their influencer and celebrity promoters and their cheap prices. The prices are kept low for a reason. In an article by The Cut, The Department of Labor launched an investigation into Fashion Nova back in 2016, finding workers paid as little as $2.77 an hour. Due to the fact that many of these workers are undocumented it is hard for them to advocate for themselves. On top of that the contractors owe millions in backpay. The investigators for The Department of Labor eventually found that they owed hundreds of workers $3.8 million in backpay. Not only are they not paying their workers properly the conditions are poor, with rats and cockroaches in the building. While all this has been happening Fashion Novas sales continue to grow.
Why it's happening
Piece rate pay. Which means garment workers are only paid by the amount of products they complete, not by the hours they work. So if a garment is more complicated, garment workers are paid less as they get through pieces slower.
What you as a brand can do
When setting up with a new factory, do your homework. Inquire on their pay practices. Is there staff mainly native born citizens? Visit the factory and get to know the building conditions and the whole team. Your garment factory is an extension of your brand, and therefore it is your job to make sure they aligned with your labor and quality standards.
Want to fast track your sourcing? The THR3EFOLD Platform provides you with a database of ethically certified factories to easily select from and manage your production all in one place. As we are privately in beta, only select brands are accepted onto the platform. Think you'd be a good fit? Check it out and set up a zoom call to apply.