Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill Monday, in a move to hold “corporations accountable and [recognise] the dignity and humanity of our workers,” he said in a statement. “These measures protect marginalised low-wage workers, many of whom are women of colour and immigrants, ensuring they are paid what they are due and improving workplace conditions.”
The Garment Worker Protection Act, also known as Senate Bill 62, will ensure hourly wages for California’s garment workers in lieu of piece-rate pay, which often amounts to wages well below the state’s $14 minimum wage. It will also hold brands accountable for labour violations such as wage theft and underpayment in their outsourced supplier factories.
“Today we won justice for garment workers,” said Senator María Elena Durazo, who authored the bill. “For too long, bad-actor manufacturers have exploited garment workers toiling in unsanitary conditions for as little as $5 an hour.”
Los Angeles’ garment industry employs over 40,000 people across some 2,000 factories. Investigations in previous years have blown open practices of underpayment in and poor working conditions, made worse by the health and economic constraints of the pandemic.
The bill was first introduced in December 2020, and its passage into law has been widely supported by worker rights advocacies and over 100 fashion companies. It was passed in a 43-12 vote on Sept. 8 before landing on Newsom’s desk.
Activists and regulators are dialling up scrutiny on brands after fragile protections for garment workers collapsed under pandemic stress.