California’s Garment Worker Protection Act Was Signed Into Law—Here’s How It’s Changing the Fashion Industry

"It's making the fashion industry better for people *and* the planet."

On Monday, California’s governor Gavin Newsom signed bill SB 62 into law. Named the Garment Worker Protection Act, this new law holds clothing brands accountable for unfair and stolen wages.

Most importantly, it applies to the entire supply chain of apparel brands based in California, meaning garment workers can no longer be exploited at earlier stages of manufacturing.

The Problems Garment Workers Face

Photo: Garment Worker Protection Act

Garment workers are notoriously underpaid and subjected to abysmal working standards. Forced labor, child labor, long working hours, and low wages are all relatively common practices.

In California, many garment shops can be classified as sweatshops. These factories have incredibly poor working conditions, like a lack of natural light and indoor plumbing. They’re also dangerous with no safety measures in place for workers.

The pay is a huge problem, too: The U.S. Department of Labor found 85% of Los Angeles garment shops failed to pay their workers a fair and legal wage.

How the Garment Worker Protection Act Will Help

The Garment Worker Protect Act will directly impact California’s 45,000 garment workers. The bill not only protects workers from stolen wages, but it ensures a minimum wage, outlawing the practice of “per-piece wages.” Per-piece wages are notorious for leaving garment workers unfairly underpaid, as a single piece may take hours or more to complete.

It also sets a precedent of corporate liability. In the press release, Newsom stated: “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.”

How can corporate liability protect workers and the planet? Experts agree that we must rethink corporate accountability in order to be more sustainable.

How the New Law Keeps Corporations Accountable

California's Garment Worker Protection Act

Current corporate liability is inadequate in protecting people and the planet because it only focuses on supply chains that are easy to see. For example, a company might claim to pay all their factory workers a fair wage but outsource raw material production to another company that doesn’t pay fair wages.

This law closes these loopholes, holding companies accountable for protecting workers at all levels of production. This level of liability is necessary to create a more ethical and sustainable clothing industry.

Support a More Accountable Industry Yourself

How can you support a more accountable industry? First, support accountable businesses.

As California apparel companies ensure their supply chains meet legal requirements, support them to encourage this new accountability model. This will not only discourage companies from moving states, but also send a message to non-California companies that an ethical business doesn’t mean bad business.

You can also contact your local representatives and ask for similar legislation. This new law sets a great precedent, but we want to see legislation like this everywhere. In the meantime, continue to support companies that protect their garment workers and advocate for workers’ rights.

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It's making the fashion industry better for people *and* the planet.

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