California bill aims to fix wage theft in garment industry

Local news
A garment factory is seen in this undated photo. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A garment factory is seen in this undated photo. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The garment industry relies on a complex web of contractors and manufacturers to deliver apparel to fashion brands. It’s a setup that lowers costs, but also one that allows fashion brands to escape scrutiny for instances of wage theft and poor working conditions among their suppliers.

A bill on its final lap through the California Legislature aims to overhaul the industry’s pay model and introduce more accountability into the fashion supply chain.

The proposed legislation has split the industry, with many fashion brands and trade groups saying the bill overreaches in placing blame on them for working conditions and wage theft perpetrated largely by third-party contractors. They warn it will shrink an already diminished Los Angeles industry by encouraging companies to tap out-of-state manufacturers. Garment workers and labor advocates maintain that brands sparked a “race to the bottom” in wages and should be held responsible for what they say are some of the worst labor law violations they’ve seen.

“These are the same working conditions of 100 years ago in New York City today in L.A. We’re not going to allow that to happen. California is a much better state than that,” said state Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) who wrote the bill, SB 62.

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