California Passes Law to Expand Coverage for Garment Workers

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On September 27, California Governor Gavin Newsom enacted Senate Bill 62, which requires garment factories to pay workers minimum hourly wages, in addition to providing other benefits. Photo: Gabriel Santos / unsplash.com

California Governor Gavin Newsom has enacted a bill that will require garment factories to pay minimum hourly wages in addition to providing workers with additional benefits.

Senate Bill 62, known as the Garment Workers Protection Act and signed on September 27, abolishes piece-rate payment in the state whereby workers were paid based on the number of pieces that ‘they could finish within a certain period of time. Critics of the piecework system say it creates a dangerous working environment as workers have to produce at faster speeds to make more money, which could always result in wages being below minimum wage.

“California holds businesses accountable and recognizes the dignity and humanity of our workers, who have helped build the world’s fifth-largest economy,” said Governor Newsom. “These measures protect marginalized and low-wage workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants, by ensuring that they are paid what they are owed and by improving working conditions. We are committed to supporting them as we work to build a stronger and more inclusive economy. “

Another element of the new law makes fashion companies responsible for any unpaid wages at their factories, even though most brands depend on outsourcing and have multiple layers between them and the employers overseeing the factory workers. Many in the fashion industry opposed the bill before it became law, saying it was detrimental to fashion companies and the state because manufacturers would rather leave California than to reimburse the salaries of subcontractors.

In July, Nate Herman, American Apparel and Footwear Association senior vice president of policy, noted that the legislation would drive clothing companies out of California.

“While well-intentioned, the bill, as currently drafted, would impose unprecedented joint liability on companies with no control over garment workers. If this provision were to become law, it would drive clothing manufacturing out of California and result in the loss of jobs in California’s clothing manufacturing industry. Indeed, companies that do the right thing, paying prices that guarantee workers living wages, will be held accountable for companies that intentionally try to do the wrong thing, ”Herman said at the time.

A similar bill was submitted to the California state legislature in the last legislative session, but ran out of time in September 2020, when the deadline for voting on new bills passed. SB 62 will come into force on January 1, 2022.


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