The Garment Worker Protection Act is a key piece of legislation that could help end sweatshop conditions and worker exploitation in a key fashion market. Read on to find out what it’s all about and how you can support the bill, called S62.
What is the Garment Worker Protection Act?
The Garment Worker Protection Act (Senate Bill 62) is a California bill that would improve working conditions in America’s largest garment industry by ensuring that brands share in the responsibility for garment worker pay under the law. SB62 would strengthen protections for garment workers in three essential ways by:
1. Eliminating piece-rate pay and enforcing the minimum wage for factory workers.
2. Holding brands accountable for sub-minimum wage pay in factories that produce their garments.
3. Increasing enforcement of wage laws up the supply chain.
How does the Garment Worker Protection Act protect garment workers?
SB62 is a landmark step towards ending our modern sweatshop regime. It would hold brands accountable for garment workers in the eyes of the law. It could also help re-establish the United States as an epicenter of ethical manufacturing.
What is the timeline of the Garment Worker Protection Act?
The Garment Worker Protection Act (Senate Bill 62) was introduced in the California legislature in December 2020 for the 2021 legislative cycle and will be voted on throughout the year. The California legislative cycle involves four different rounds of voting throughout the year. SB62 will start in a Senate subcommittee, get passed to the Senate, then the Assembly and then finally to the governor’s desk in the fall of 2020.
Is the Garment Worker Protection Act only relevant to California?
No. The Garment Worker Protection Act (SB62) could set an important legal precedent that brands are responsible for garment worker wages and that brands are jointly liable for the pay and wages workers receive in contract factories.
Are people outside of California able to support the bill? What about outside the United States?
Yes. People outside of California, including residents of other nations, are encouraged to sign the petition at Bit.ly/SupportSB62 and to share information about the importance of this bill with their friends, family and followers. Please tag California Governor Gavin Newsom and urge him to support SB62 on social media as well.
Are SB62 and the Garment Worker Protection Act the same thing?
Yes. And we encourage you to use both the bill number and the name of the Act in any social media posts, because when folks are asked to call in to support the bill, they’ll need to know the special bill number (Senate Bill 62).
How will the Garment Worker Protection Act hold brands more accountable for their garment workers?
Brands hold too much power over factory conditions and yet have no financial or legal responsibility to garment workers. They routinely price their orders so low that factory owners are encouraged to skirt labor law, resulting in workers in L.A. being paid an average of $5.85 an hour. When the low wages and poor conditions are brought to brands’ attention, they frequently deny responsibility for the working conditions they create. Currently the law favors brands over workers’ rights. (Source: Garment Worker Center)
Why aren’t factory owners solely responsible for paying the minimum wage and raising working conditions in garment factories? Why do brands need to share in responsibility?
In short, brand purchasing practices and the prices they pay to factories dictate how much money the factories can pay garment workers. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor conducted investigations of 77 randomly selected factories in Los Angeles and found that factories only receive 73% of the price they need from apparel retailers and brands to be able to pay workers the minimum wage. According to the DoL, “these results reveal the high underlying rate of noncompliance in the industry that results from the low prices driving the system.” (Source: Garment Worker Center)
There are already minimum wage laws in California. Why don’t we just enforce the laws we’ve got?
Current laws are not strong enough to protect the most vulnerable workers. Garment workers currently have little recourse over wage theft and poor working conditions. This is due to a number of factors: factory owners are often struggling financially themselves, there are substantial gaps in labor law that don’t match modern working conditions, and a lack of union representation suppresses worker’ voices. The result is an entrenched sweatshop culture in Los Angeles in which workers are rarely afforded a voice or bargaining power over their working conditions. (Source: Garment Worker Center)
How might the Garment Worker Protection Act benefit ethical fashion companies?
The Garment Worker Protection Act would even the playing field for ethical companies by helping to make ethical sourcing the norm in Los Angeles. Currently, ethical fashion businesses that do make an effort to ensure fair minimum wages and want to provide good working conditions in their garment factories find it challenging to compete when they are frequently undercut by the many businesses paying their workers sub-minimum wages. In short, it’s currently cheaper to break the law, and many brands are complicit in it. (Source: Garment Worker Center)
What brands are currently supporting the Garment Worker Protection Act?
More than 150 companies and brands have officially endorsed the Garment Worker Protection Act as of August 15, 2021, as well as more than 100 civil society, labor rights and immigrant rights groups. Supporters include Reformation, Eileen Fisher, Mara Hoffman, and Boyish Jeans. For a full list, see the GWPA Endorsement page. New brands are endorsing all the time.
How might the Garment Worker Protection Act benefit sustainability in fashion?
It will incentivize brands to share in the burden of funding and investing in sustainability. Currently, brands often shift the burden of investing in sustainability onto factories and then don’t pay them more for products. (Source: Garment Worker Center)
How will the Garment Worker Protection Act benefit Made in the USA and Made in LA labeling?
The Garment Worker Protection Act will help protect the integrity of the Made in USA and Made in LA brands by ensuring products made here are in fact ethically made. Currently, the prevalence of sweatshops in Los Angeles undermine efforts to authentically promote “Made In Los Angeles” and “Made in USA” garments.
Aren’t working conditions in the USA already ethical?
Sadly, no. In Los Angeles, the largest apparel production hub in the United States, sweatshop conditions are pervasive with wages far below the minimum wage persist in many factories sewing clothes for small and large brands. Garment workers in Los Angeles are being paid as little as $5 an hour, even though considered essential workers, and they risked their lives making masks and other PPE throughout the pandemic. Some brands that use Made in USA and “Made in LA” labeling are enabling a form of “greenwashing” by implying that these products are inherently ethically made when in fact this is scarily untrue. (Source: Garment Worker Center)
Which brands that source in Los Angeles are most responsible for driving down working conditions?
Fashion Nova, Windsor, Forever 21, Harley Davidson, Lulu’s, Urban Outfitters, and Charlotte Russe are the main drivers of the industry’s exploitative conditions in Los Angeles. Within the past six years, other brands and retailers including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, and Burlington have also been linked to wage theft. These large companies leverage their high volume purchases to demand lower prices from manufacturers and subcontractors in Los Angeles (Source: Garment Worker Center)
Why are sweatshop conditions in Los Angeles bad for taxpayers?
Labor violations are rampant in the Los Angeles industry’s garment factories. In addition to taking a heavy toll on workers and their families, poor working conditions and wages that are below the minimum wage cost the state and taxpayers a lot of money in wage theft claims and social services. (Source: Garment Worker Center)
How do I support Garment Worker Protection Act?
1) Sign the PayUp Fashion on the Home Page. If you’re a California resident, we’ll share your email address with the Garment Worker Center, the bill’s lead organizer
2) Sign the Garment Worker Protection Act Petition: Bit.ly/SupportSB62
3) If you’re a brand, you can endorse the bill here:
HASHTAGS TO PROMOTE SB62 ON INSTAGRAM
#GarmentWorkerProtectionAct #SB62 #GWPA #Payup #PayHer #OneLegalWage #MinimumWageNow #EssentialWorkers #EssentialProtections
#Paguenos #UnSueldoLegal #TrabajadoresEsenciales #ProteccionesEsenciales
SB62 The Garment Worker Protection Act Official Website: www.garmentworkeract.org
Petition for Citizens to Show Their General support: Bit.ly/SupportSB62
Form for Brands Who Want to Official Endorse GWPA: Bit.ly/EndorseSB62
NY Times: Fashion Nova’s Secret: Underpaid Workers in Los Angeles Factories
L.A. Times: Behind a $13 T-Shirt, a $6-An-Hour Worker
L.A. Times: Wage theft plagues L.A. garment workers. Why aren’t fashion retailers held responsible?
U.S. Department of Labor: Garment Industry’s Wage Violations Share a Common Thread
UCLA Labor Center: How Wage Theft Impacts Workers’ Health