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1 Sep 2020

USA: California considers Garment Worker Protection Act (SB1399) to end minimum wage violations

A new law is being considered in California that would make retailers accountable for garment workers' pay. There are more than 45,000 garment workers in Los Angeles, many of whom are paid less than half of the minimum wage.

The Garment Worker Protection Bill (SB1399) was introduced by State Senator Maria Elena Durazo and is sponsored by Garment Worker Center, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, the California Labor Federation and Western Center on Law and Poverty. The bill seeks to end wage theft by eliminating the piece-rate system in the garment industry while ensuring garment workers can still earn incentive-based bonuses above their legal wages and enforcing liability to ensure retailers cannot use layers of contracting to avoid the law.

It was approved by the Assembly of Labour and Employment Committee at the end of July 2020, however failed to come up for a vote in the legislative session by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August.

Garment Worker Center said it will fight to bring the bill back next year.

In December 2020, California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo introduced SB-62 to end the piece rate practice and establish a fair minimum wage for garment workers.

In September 2021, SB-62 passed through the California State Assembly, to be returned to the state Senate for a final vote to approve the amendments that were added in the Assembly. The amendments included a compromise with those who opposed to the bill, that removed liability for damages and penalties for brands and retailers. Later that month, SB-62 was signed by the California Governor Gavin Newsom.