Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Introduced the Nation’s First Federal Bill Seeking to Hold Fashion Brands Accountable

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U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has announced the first federal law seeking to hold fashion brands accountable for their labor practices.

On Thursday, May 12, the New York Democrat introduced the “Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change Act” — FABRIC Act for short — to the Senate, a first-of-its-kind federal bill that seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit employers from paying employees in the garment industry by piece rate.

According to the summary filed on Thursday, the bill also requires manufacturers and contractors in the garment industry to register with the Department of Labor. It is now in the Senate Finance Committee, with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) listed as co-sponsors.

Sen. Gillibrand made the announcement earlier this week that she would present the bill on Thursday in an interview with Vogue. “We need to put a prohibition on predatory payments through the piece rates, but we also need to give these companies the incentives to bring the manufacturing back to the U.S. or make it possible for them to start up here in the first place,” Sen. Gillibrand told the publication.

According to Vogue, a range of industry groups have expressed their support, including the Model Alliance, Worker’s United, Fashion Revolution, Center for the Advancement of Garment Making, Fashion Connection, Skilled Laborers Brigade, Sustainable Brooklyn, Custom Collaborative, The Slow Factory, New Standard Institute and the California College of the Arts’ fashion design program.

This follows similar bills at the state level that seek to hold fashion companies more accountable in their business practices.

A bill submitted in the New York State Senate in January, called the “Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act” (or Fashion Act), seeks to hold some of the biggest brands in fashion accountable for their role in climate change. Sponsored by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, the bill requires fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose environmental and social due diligence policies; establishes a community benefit fund for the purpose of implementing one or more environmental benefit projects that directly and verifiably benefit environmental justice communities.

What’s more, in March, Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff announced the pro-labor legislation “The Fashion Workers Act,” which aims to protect New York models and other fashion creatives from predatory management agencies that currently operate without oversight.

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