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Article

1 Sep 2020

Author:
Laurence Darmiento, Los Angeles Times

USA: Proposed Garment Worker Protection Act (SB1399) could end minimum wage violations for California garment workers

"Wage theft plagues L.A. garment workers. Why aren’t fashion retailers held responsible?", 17 August 2020

...[T]housands of immigrant workers... sometimes toil for far less than the minimum wage in small Los Angeles apparel factories... [Labour] advocates are proposing the industry’s biggest reforms in a generation, legislation that would turn the traditional pay structure on its head while holding... retailers... responsible for any wage theft that occurs in the making of their apparel...

The bill, SB 1399, is so far-reaching that it’s being labeled by critics as an existential threat to what remains of the region’s once-booming apparel industry, which has shrunk... after decades of competition from cheap foreign labor. More than a dozen business groups have lined up against it, including... the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Assn....

[S]ome high-profile L.A.-area companies are backing the bill, including Reformation, which markets eco-friendly women’s wear and has a celebrity clientele, and Fashion Nova, the popular fast-fashion retailer, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to wage theft but recently announced changes to its contracting practices...

A 2016 state law... tightened up regulations on piece-rate compensation, which is traditional in the apparel industry and pays workers for every hem, seam and cuff they sew... The piece rate can allow skilled workers to well exceed the minimum wage, but labor advocates say the rates are often set so low that apparel workers can make less than $5 an hour — even though employers are supposed to make up the difference and pay the legal minimum in such instances. SB 1399, which has passed the Senate and is expected to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week, would require employers to pay an hourly wage and only allows piece-rate compensation as an incentive bonus, unless provided for in a collective bargaining agreement...

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