How California's Garment Worker Protection Act Impacts Apparel Sector
On Sept. 27, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will require the state's garment factories to pay a minimum hourly wage in addition to giving workers other benefits. Known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, Senate Bill 62 abolishes the piece-rate payment that paid workers according to how many pieces they could complete in a certain amount of time.
Proponents of the law see it is a way to protect garment workers.
“Garment workers and advocates say the current system has been designed to incentivize rapid production while exploiting workers—most of whom are immigrants and women of color,” reporter Paulina Velasco noted in The Guardian.
The law is designed to help ensure workers are paid what they are due and create a safer working environment.
“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,” Gov. Newsom said, according to Reuters.
Another component of the law will hold companies liable for any unpaid wages at their factories. Currently, many brands rely heavily on subcontracting and have quite a few layers between themselves and employers overseeing factory workers.
While support for the bill is widespread, some brands oppose it partially because of this component. Some feel that it will harm fashion businesses and the state, as manufacturers would rather move out of California than pay back wages for subcontractors, which could in turn cause job loss.
When we won $15 in California, we meant $15 for ALL workers. The #GarmentWorkerProtectionAct is a step towards fixing historical inequity. https://t.co/vLencsv1Ol #FightFor15 pic.twitter.com/qpEjUyAIhb
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) October 3, 2021
“Although well-intentioned, the bill, as currently written, would impose unprecedented joint liability on businesses with no control over garment workers," Nate Herman, senior vice president of policy for the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said in a statement. "If this provision becomes law, it would drive garment manufacturing out of California and lead to the loss of jobs in California’s garment-manufacturing sector."
Though the law is unlikely to impact screen printers and other apparel decoration businesses in a significant way, it could have some minor ripple effects. A number of industry apparel suppliers and wholesalers do some level of manufacturing in California, including American Apparel and Bella+Canvas.
“It is critical that our members continue to raise their awareness of any legislative and regulatory issues that might have a potential impact on their business,” Marci Kinter, vice president – Government & Regulatory Affairs for PRINTING United Alliance, told Promo Marketing. “While this new California law may not have a direct impact on a traditional printing operation, owners/operators may see increased costs in their supply chains and may need to adjust accordingly.”
Increased costs and other supply chain issues are, of course, one of the hottest topics in the global economy at large. Between sudden lockdowns and strict regulations overseas and U.S. ports facing historic cargo backlogs, new laws are just one factor contributing to the challenges the apparel industry is already facing.
Still, most believe that the Garment Worker Protection Act will have a positive impact overall.
“The sustainable business community wants a level playing field, enabled by strong labor laws, because we believe it is crucial for California fashion to flourish well into the 21st century,” a coalition of at least 70 fashion businesses previously wrote in a letter to the California Chamber of Commerce.
SB 62 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.