Factory owners in California’s garment industry have gotten away with illegally paying workers below-minimum wages for decades.
A bill that cleared a major hurdle in the Assembly on Wednesday aims to change that, requiring apparel factories to pay garment workers an hourly wage and aiming to hold big businesses accountable for labor practices under their watch. SB 62 will head back to the state Senate for final approval before going to the governor’s desk for signature.
By requiring an hourly wage, the bill 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, according to a 2016 UCLA study, while allowing employers to still offer productivity-based incentives to workers.
It would also allow workers to claw back stolen wages from big fashion brands and retailers, instead of having to go after the small garment factories that those larger companies hire as subcontractors to keep costs low. Those small factories often shut down and disappear before workers can reclaim their due.
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