California Bill Protecting Garment Workers Passes State Senate

Last month, California’s Senate passed the Garment Workers Protection Act or Senate Bill 1399, which is a set of reforms guaranteeing minimum wage for workers and implements safety measures not currently enforced. The law, which is expected to be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, was authored and introduced by state Senator Maria Elena Durazo. 

“It is time we demand better working conditions for women and just hourly pay for garment workers, who, when paid by the piece, earn on average $5.15per hour,” Durazo told Apparel News. She’s referring to the wage theft or piece rate model adopted by the industry, which takes place when garment workers are paid by the number of pieces sewn in a day rather than being paid hourly for their work.

Last year, L.A. based garment workers for Fashion Nova revealed to The New York Times the type of working conditions they were forced to endure and alleged the garment factories were dirty with rats and cockroaches. During the pandemic, many workers are working in unsanitized conditions and aren’t paid for overtime.

Forbes goes into how undocumented workers in Los Angeles have been taken advantage of, especially during the pandemic with many workers unpaid just before the shutdown and during. Many are back to work making Personal Protection Equipment for essential workers at the expense of their own health due to a lack of cleanliness and sanitary measures in facilities.

According to Forbes, “California has the highest concentration of garment workers in the manufacturing market in the United States.”

The Realist Woman’s take:

I wrote about the working conditions of garment workers for Fashion Nova in December of last year. I was shocked as I have been a customer of that retailer. I assumed the working conditions and pay of garment workers here better than that of sweatshops in the third world. But goodness was I wrong.

California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo authored and introduced this bill in February of this year, with many expecting this bill to be signed into law this month. Retailers will now be held accountable for workers’ pay and working conditions. It’s about time.