Garment Worker Protection Act Advances — Next Stop, Newsom’s Desk

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Garment workers in the bustling manufacturing hub of Los Angeles are one step closer to hourly pay rates.

SB 62, or the Garment Worker Protection Act, passed the California State Assembly late Wednesday night. The bill addresses wage theft in the industry by seeking to eliminate piece-rate pay and establish joint liability among stakeholders.

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Seeing a clear victory with 43 yes votes to 12 no votes, the bill is now headed to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for a final say on whether it passes.

Los Angeles-based business owner and SB 62 advocate Kristen Fanarakis called the bill’s passage in the Assembly a “step in the right direction toward correcting the externalities that fashion imposes on society.”

Fanarakis’ Senza Tempo Fashion label was one of 140 businesses signed onto a business coalition (others include Reformation, Eileen Fisher and denim mill Saitex) supporting the bill’s passage.

Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center, a sponsor of the bill, is optimistic about its full passage despite the so-dubbed “bad actors” whose practices (chasing rock-bottom prices or looking the other way when subcontractors grift wages and pop up under new names) lead to wage theft for workers.

“Brands are the actors with influence in this space, they sign off on these contracts, and it’s time for them to lead on fair labor practices and sustainability,” said Nuncio, adding that Newsom needs to align with the moral prerogative of responsible businesses.

Both Nuncio and Victor Narro, project director and professor of Labor Studies at the University of California Los Angeles Labor Center, who authored the original legislation which SB 62 builds upon, are keen to disarm any lingering confusion over the bill’s joint liability.

Pointing it back to due process, Narro has reassured that “if you’re a responsible player and you take responsible steps, then you have nothing to worry about.…The deputy labor commissioner is still going to have to do his or her work and look at all the possible guarantors that may be liable for wage claims. If you’re a brand and your name shows up, you can also take the steps — you can create documentation that you should not be liable [as guarantor].”

Already, this week’s legislative session ending Sept. 10 is shaping up to be promising for the working class. Another bill (AB 701) meant to better regulate warehouse work productivity metrics notorious among retailers like Amazon, advanced in the Senate and will face a final concurrence vote before hitting Newsom’s desk.

A key date, Oct. 10 is the last day for Newsom to sign or veto bills passed by the legislature on or before Sept. 10 per the California legislative calendar.


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