Garment Bill’s Passage an ‘Inflection Point’ for American Fashion, Say Business Owners

·3 min read

The week started off on a high-note for ethical fashion.

With the passage of the Garment Worker Protection Act (or SB-62) in California Monday in a package of worker protection bills signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, more eyes are on Los Angeles as a hub for nearshoring ethical manufacturing.

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Calling the passage of SB-62, an “inflection point” for fashion, Nicole Robertson, founder and chief executive officer of online swap shop Swap Society, a business endorser to the bill, applauded the efforts of the garment workers, citizens, nonprofits and businesses in California that rallied to show their support of the Garment Worker Protection Act and demand fair wages.

“Swap Society signed on as a brand endorser because we believe that the people who make our clothes deserve dignity, safe working conditions — and fair pay,” Robertson reiterated. “California is leading the way by telling the world that exploiting garment workers for profit will no longer be tolerated. It is unconscionable that the majority of garment workers in Los Angeles have been making one-third of minimum wage.”

The “unconscionable” wages Robertson referred to are mere pennies at a time-per-garment operation. Under previous legislation, Los Angeles garment workers were making roughly $5.85 an hour, or $334 a week on average, for more than 57 hours of labor, without compensation for meal and rest breaks. This is according to a December 2020 report by the Garment Worker Center, a cosponsor to SB-62.

With SB-62’s elimination of the piece-rate pay, the L.A. garment industry hopes to be one less dragging force on California’s economy (with the state losing millions in stolen wages every year), and one step forward for its ethical reputation.

“Shifting the fashion industry away from extraction and toward regeneration requires accountability from brands, governments, nonprofits and consumers. The passage of SB-62 is a perfect example of all parties collaborating to create more just and dignified livelihoods for garment workers in California,” said Mairin Wilson, head of regenerative practices at L.A.-based brand Christy Dawn. “I challenge us as an industry to continue to insist on workers rights, not only in our home in California, but for all global suppliers throughout our entire supply chains.”

Expressing gratitude for those who fought tirelessly for this “critical milestone,” Margaret Kleveland, chief executive officer and cofounder of earthy label Dôen agrees the industry “must prioritize a new path forward through policy change and advocacy, and ensure justice and equity for the makers and workers throughout the supply chain.”

“Justice for garment workers and ethical manufacturing is an industry-wide responsibility. We should all be accountable,” echoed Kristy Caylor, founder and chief executive officer of circular brand For Days.

Christy Dawn, For Days and Dôen were part of more than 140 businesses supporting the passage of SB-62, as part of the business coalition set up by the GWC that also included Reformation, Swap Society, Eileen Fisher and denim mill Saitex.

“I hope this law will signal that ‘Made in the USA’ is again something that can be trusted and equates to ethical practices,” said Sanjeev Bahl, founder and chief executive officer at Saitex. “More broadly, its passing demonstrates that change can and is happening systemically. As we’re emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic — in the U.S. — I hope this passing can be a blueprint for how we can build back the fashion industry better.”

For More, See:

‘Landmark’ Garment Worker Legislation Could Redefine Sustainable Fashion

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Garment Worker Protection Act Into Law

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