✅ Holding fashion brands liable for fair wages

A garment worker in a Los Angeles factory. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
A garment worker sews clothing items in a Los Angeles factory. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

By Nigel Duara

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 62 would mandate paying garment workers by the hour unless they collectively bargain for a per-piece rate. Carried by LA Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Duraza, it  also would introduce the concept of brand liability, extending liability for wage theft from the factories to the brands and retailers, as well as subcontractors in between.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Labor unions and anti-poverty advocates say it’s needed to protect skilled garment workers from exploitation by banning per-piece rate. Co-sponsors, including the California Labor Federation, Garment Worker Center and Western Center on Law and Poverty, say underground operations are able to pay as little as 12 cents per piece, which amounts to wage theft.

WHO’S OPPOSED

The California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups object to the brand guarantor provision, which holds fashion brands and retailers liable for wage theft. Business interests argue that existing law is already strong enough; they just have to be enforced.

WHY IT MATTERS

This is both about the number of jobs available and the amount of pay for this type of work. While supporters say it’s meant to protect pay for a vulnerable workforce, the clothing industry warns it could move jobs offshore, reversing a recent trend to move jobs back to America during the pandemic. This is labor’s second attempt to change how workers are paid in the underground Los Angeles garment industry. A similar bill died last year in the waning hours of the legislative session.

GOVERNOR’S CALL: ✅ The governor signed the bill in a virtual ceremony Sept. 27. “These measures protect marginalized low-wage workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants, ensuring they are paid what they are due and improving workplace conditions,” he said in a statement. “We are committed to having their backs as we work to build a stronger, more inclusive economy.”