In summary

SB 1399 sought to change how workers are paid in the underground Los Angeles garment industry. But this legislative cycle it failed in the face of strong business opposition.

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Before he was hospitalized with COVID-19, before his roommates kicked him out of their shared apartment because of his illness, before he found himself unhoused for the first time in his life, Francisco Tzul noticed people at his downtown Los Angeles garment factory start to cough. In a few days, they would disappear. 

Tzul, 56, is an undocumented worker in the city’s massive garment industry, one that relies on men and women like him to produce shirts, blouses and skirts for major fashion brands so they can be sold at a premium for being made in America. 

He worked at a legitimate garment factory, Los Angeles Apparel, sewing face masks. The job paid him LA’s minimum wage of $15 per hour and overtime, part of the city’s essential workforce. 

The payment was close to what legislators asked for in a bill that failed in the most recent legislative session: Paying workers by the hour, not by the piece. He didn’t have health benefits, but it was far better than what he was making in the underground factories. 

Then, he got sick.