Many consumers associate Made in USA with ethical production, but that’s not the case for tens of thousands of garment workers in Los Angeles. Fashionista.com covers the forces contributing to L.A.’s long history of wage theft and labor exploitation in the apparel supply chain, where undocumented women from Mexico and Central America often toil sewing clothes for fast fashion companies like Forever 21 and Fashion Nova at a third of the legal minimum wage. Writer Aditi Mayer reports that, “With an average hourly rate of $6, Los Angeles’ fashion district is predicated on a vulnerable workforce of largely undocumented immigrants. Workers of this underground economy are often subjected to wage theft, intimidation and poor health and safety conditions.”
The piece also covers the groundbreaking organizing of PayUp Fashion Partnering Organization the Garment Worker Center and their historic bill, the Garment Worker Protection Act, which though it failed to come to a vote in the 2020 California legislative session, is scheduled to be reintroduced before the end of 2020 and voted on next year. Mayer writes, “On the frontlines of fighting against these injustices is the Garment Worker Center (GWC), a workers’ rights group founded in 2001 to organize low-wage garment workers in Los Angeles in the fight for social and economic justice. The GWC was born directly from the El Monte case: After the El Monte workers won their campaign, the coalition established the GWC. Since its inception, the organization has taken a bottom-up approach, actively centering workers as key leadership, making it a movement largely led by women of color.”
Read the full piece, which covers the history of wage theft in LA and how the industry gets away with paying illegally-low wages, here.