California Garment Worker Protection Act (Senate Bill 62) Passed, and Debates Continue

About Senate Bill 62

  • The new law bans the long-standing piece-rate system — 5 cents to sew a side seam, for instance, or 10 cents to sew a neck — that often adds up to less than $6 an hour (source: LA times). From now on, garment workers in California will get a minimum wage of $14 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.
  • The new law’s “brand guarantor” provision would extend the liability for wage theft from the factories themselves to the brands and retailers that sell the clothes, as well as any subcontractors in between. In other words, the bill creates new liabilities across California’s clothing supply chain from factory subcontractors to retailers. (source:  San Francisco Examiner)

Concerns about Senate Bill 62

According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), the California Garment Worker Protection Act “does not recognize that brands or buyers may have little to no control over how a particular garment factory employer manages their payroll or enterprise finances.” AAFA explains why this new law in actuality could punish good actors:

Brand Good contracts with Manufacturer Y to manufacture their clothes, paying a good price, more than enough to pay required wages to Manufacturer Y’s employees. However, in an effort to generate more business, Manufacturer Y also takes a low-bid contract from Brand Bad, so low that both Manufacturer Y and Brand Bad know Manufacturer Y will not be able to pay required wages to its employees. Under this bill, Brand Good would be liable for any wage claims resulting from Manufacturer Y’s acceptance of a low-bid contract completely unrelated to its operations.

The legislation would make responsible brands like Brand Good legally liable to pay for wage claims resulting from Manufacturer Y’s and Brand Bad’s unlawful or irresponsible activity. SB 62 will not deter bad actors like Brand Bad from operating in California’s garment manufacturing industry. Instead, it will penalize responsible companies like Brand Good, even though Brand Good did the right thing. As a result, Brand Good, and other responsible brands, will no longer allow their branded garments to be manufactured in California out of fear that they will acquire additional liabilities over activities they don’t control.

More than 60% of garment factories in the US are based in California.

Further reading:

Discussion question:Based on the video and the readings, what is your view on the California Garment Worker Protection Act? What changes could it bring to the fashion apparel industry and why?

(Disclaimer: All posts on this site are for FASH455 educational and academic research purposes only, and they are nonpolitical and nonpartisan. No blog post intends to either favor or oppose any particular political party/public policy, nor shall be interpreted that way)

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

10 thoughts on “California Garment Worker Protection Act (Senate Bill 62) Passed, and Debates Continue”

  1. I believe that this implementation of more liabilities placed on brands over factories can be unbeneficial to protect workers from wage theft. For example, as mentioned in this blog brands are not able to track or manage factories wage distribution, putting unjust blame on brands who are attempting to make the right calls. I do believe the piece rate payment system is not fair for workers, as making under $6 an hour is not a livable rate. This is an issue that remains a responsibility of the factories, as brands can be paying more than enough for factories to ethically pay their workers. This system out in California is one that needs to be reevaluated, and bills should be enforced on shop owners who are on the floor everyday and visible to the true factory issues. However, ensuring that brands are paying enough is one prominent issue that also needs to be monitored.

    1. Indeed! Despite the debate, it reminds us that we still have a long way to go to protect garment workers and make the apparel industry more socially responsible. This is not an issue only relevant to the developing world.

  2. I believe this new bill is a step in the right direction for garment workers’ rights in the US. It is sad to read that the previous hourly wage was $6, not even close to a livable wage in the US. With the increase in garment workers, the minimum wage is beneficial to creating a liveable wage. The concerns of senate bill 62 are also something to consider with the fear of wage theft. As much as this may seem like a step in the right direction like I said, the state of California needs to look further into how they can protect these workers and create a more fair industry. It is crazy to think people in the US are being paid below poverty level wages!

  3. At first glance, it is great to see changes being made in the garment industry for the better. The hard work and neglect of garment workers has been swept under the radar, so it is encouraging to see improvements being made, starting with higher wages for these employees. But, because the vendors are paying the factories so little per garment, it is difficult to pay such high wages to employees, so changes need to be made down the entire supply chain. This is why Brand Good would become liable for Brand Bad’s poor decisions. Since Brand Goods may withdraw from manufacturing in California, there needs to be changes made through the supply chains. This law needs to consider the fashion brands themselves and should require they pay their vendors certain prices per garment, so that the vendors can afford them from the factories, and the factories can pay their workers. But, it is a great start to improving production in the apparel industry, and it is likely that many other states and countries will follow suit with similar acts to ensure fair wages for garment workers.

  4. I believe that the garment industry is taking a step in the right direction when it comes to implementing new rules and regulations for garment factories. Although these regulations may help to further ensure the overall safety of garment workers, employees wages remain a questionable aspect. Garment workers themselves are not being paid to adequate standards, as employees are receiving insufficient compensation for their work. I do not feel that Brand Good should be responsible to make up for Brand Bad’s unlawful or irresponsible activity. The garment industry must look to improve standards and supply chain issues in order to ensure adequate treatment and compensation for the garment workers.

  5. Human rights and proper work conditions are crucial for factories to implement. In the past, factory workers have not always gotten the proper care and attention they desire and deserve. This article shows the concerns of the new legislative bill that passed in California, as it is not as great as it appears at first glance. This bill is still not ensuring proper wages for garment workers. It also holds brands reliable for reporting and doing the right thing, which may deteriorate these brands from speaking out. I believe that California should reevaluate this bill, as there are definitely improvements that could be made in order to benefit everyone involved.

  6. I was absolutely shocked to see the injustices within the apparel manufacturing industry that are still happening today. I was horrified to learn about the piece-rate system for payment. I can think of almost no other industry that pays so little per hour and with a similar system. Why is the garment industry so money-hungry and barbaric? The California Garment Worker Protection Act is an interesting step. However, I do feel that it is a step in the right direction. While some may say that it is unfair for brands to be held responsible for the actions of their factories, I completely disagree. At the end of the day, the brand is the one paying the factory to supply their clothing and the brands are the ones that hold the money and the power. If a factory is doing illegal things, the brand should not be using them and should be held responsible. This would force them to use an ethical factory instead of turning a blind eye just because it “wasn’t their fault”. I think that the idea of a money-hungry brand ignoring blame for the mistreatment of the workers making their garments is ridiculous. I hope that this Act is a step in the right direction and will force brands to open their eyes to their responsibility in the treatment of their workers.

  7. I am happy to see that California’s state government is taking action against the unfair treatment of garment workers but I am also upset to know that this type of treatment doesn’t just happen in developing countries, it can happen in the US too without you even knowing. In my opinion, regardless of what job you are doing, you should be paid the minimum wage of that state. The pay per piece system is just cruel and suggests that the factory owners are just trying to make as much product as possible. I hope that further action is taken on behalf of the California government to address the unethical working conditions. No garment worker should be working next to roaches and in a factory without proper safety measures.

  8. I think that this is devastating to the workers in the garment industry. I think that the California Garment Worker Protection Act is a good start but this is also creates a difficult time for fashion brands. Noted by the fashion company, American Apparel, they seek out good manufactures but these companies will take bid from bad companies. I do not believe American Apparel because in our recent case study, the US has made it very clear they they will not import and condone forced labor products. With the legislation that they have implemented it makes sure that suppliers know every tier of their supply chain and maybe if they implemented on US products there would be less forced labor in California. They have set laws and trying to protect worker to the best of their ability. In California, it is really expensive. As said in the video many of the worker are not even receiving minimal wages. Also there is documentation about the issues with the conditions but no one is doing anything about it. Companies are looking for the cheapest production cost possible. They are giving jobs to people in the US but in a derogatory manner. Also a lot of the people working in apparel production are from low income families trying to meet ends mean. Bringing to light these problems for both the workers and apparel companies. With the worker, them bringing up issues allows for companies to look at other or foreign production facilities. This means a lost of jobs for those people. But because companies what the mot profit possible, this mean that brands will be looking for other places to source their products.

  9. I think that California’s garment worker protection act is a fantastic bill to be put into place. I am personally in shock that it took this long for the previously used method to pay garment workers in California to be replaced. I understand that some may be opposed to this because they feel that brands and retailers may have little control over how certain garment manages their payroll, to a certain point. Being paid 6$ an hour in just unacceptable and brands that use this type of retailer should be blamed. They have the power to hold their venders accountable just as consumers should hold them accountable for using these facilities. I think that this bill holds the brands accountable for who they will be employing . . In my opinion, if they were not required to step up for this price difference, it would be as if the brands or companies were condoning this human rights issue. I think that this bill is such a great idea that I wish there would be a way to employ it in overseas countries. If factories in developed countries had the brands that hire them require a higher minimum wage then there would be a large improvement in the human rights issue of garment workers.

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