Hourly Wages For California Garment Workers
California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Senate Bill 62, which requires garment industry employers to pay workers an hourly wage instead of piece-rate compensation.
The new law applies to employers with 26 or more employees and ensures workers earn a minimum wage of $14 per hour. About 85% of garment workers earn two to six cents per piece, which works out to only $5.15 per hour.
According to the bill, some retailers and manufacturers tried to avoid liability for stolen wages by “adding layers of contracting between themselves and the employees manufacturing the garments,” according to the bill.
In a statement, Newsom said, “California is holding corporations accountable and recognizing the dignity and humanity of our workers, who have helped build the fifth-largest economy in the world.” He continued, “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. We are committed to having their backs as we work to build a stronger, more inclusive economy.”
The bill will revise existing law to, “make clear that a person contracting to have garments made is liable for unpaid wages, damages, penalties, and other compensation owed to workers who manufacture those garments regardless of how many layers of contracting that person may use.” The bill doesn’t prohibit local municipalities from enacting their additional protections for garment workers.
Whenever laws that protect workers are enacted, corporations are quick to claim they will be forced to leave California (apparently to exploit workers elsewhere in States that do not have robust worker protections). So, it’s not surprising that American Apparel and Footwear Association said the bill would “drive garment manufacturing out of California” and reduce garment-making jobs available in the state.
Los Angeles is the center of garment manufacturing in the US, with about 2,000 manufacturers employing more than 40,000 workers. Many small factories often operate without proper registration or enforcement, which increases the risk of exploitation in the industry.
This bill is a big step in the right direction. After all, protecting California workers is the right thing to do.