Senator Maria Elena Durazo of California’s 24th State Senate District called for corporate responsibility and major changes in garment manufacturing, citing the “unacceptable exploitation and wage theft” occurring in Los Angeles garment manufacturing “day after day” in her speech at the SB62 postcard signing held at Christy Dawn in Venice Beach, California.

Last Thursday, Remakers, activists, and industry professionals gathered at the Postcards for a Cause Summer Soirée to express their support for Senate Bill 62, also known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, by addressing postcards to Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jen Siebel Newsom.

SB62 Postcard signing event in Los Angeles.

SB62 is a bill through which garment workers would finally receive justice regarding the “rampant and egregious wage violations” present across many CA-based garment manufacturers.

Previously, Assembly Bill 633 (Steinberg) sought to end wage theft within garment manufacturing. Although AB 633 was pure in it’s intentions, it left too many holes for manufacturers to slither through, allowing for exploitation to perpetuate in garment manufacturing. 20 years after the passage of AB 633, the garment manufacturing industry is still “rife with employment violations.”

Santa Puac speaking at the Los Angeles SB62 postcard signing event.

Garment Worker Center organizer Santa Puac, who also spoke at the postcard signing, elaborated on her experiences as a garment laborer of 18 years. With assistance and translation from Daisy Gonzales of the Garment Worker Center, Puac was able to share her testimony regarding the treatment of garment laborers.

California garment factories, or rather, sweatshops, are infested with cockroaches and rats. Garment makers work extremely long hours in poor conditions, and many of them are not permitted any breaks during work hours.

According to Puac, the California garment factories, or rather, sweatshops, are infested with cockroaches and rats. Garment makers work extremely long hours in poor conditions, and many of them are not permitted any breaks during work hours. This, coupled with the wage theft present in garment manufacturing, results in a poor quality of life for Los Angeles garment makers and their families.

The backside of the SB62 postcards being sent to Governor Newsom.

These employment violations have only been exacerbated with the presence of COVID-19. A deep-seated mismanagement of wages and unstable employment contracts overlapped with the horrendous mismanagement of COVID safety protocols in many factories, which further put California garment workers at risk.

Gonzales and Puac noted in a brief interview that during the pandemic, many factories continued to operate “behind closed doors” to create masks. The cruel irony here is that garment workers risked their lives making items designed to protect life.

Senate Bill 62, or SB62, would help to end unethical practices in the L.A. garment sector by doing the following:

1) Eradicating the piece-rate pay system and implementing minimum wage for factory workers

2) Enforcing accountability for brands that pay below the $15 minimum wage in factories that produce their garments

3) Strengthening the enforcement of wage laws throughout the supply chain

If made into law, SB62 has the potential to position the United States as an “epicenter of ethical manufacturing.” It would set the standard for ethical transparency in garment manufacturing.

If made into law, SB62 has the potential to position the United States as an “epicenter of ethical manufacturing.” It would set the standard for ethical transparency in garment manufacturing. Senator Durazo echoed this notion in her speech, stating that SB62 could have a robust impact on the treatment of garment laborers and on the industry itself if passed through the California State Assembly.

Senator Durazo speaking at SB62 postcard signing event in Los Angeles.

If there’s one thing that attendees agreed on most, it’s that the piece rate pay system present in California garment manufacturing is morally and socially wrong. It’s baffling that California has one of the richest state economies, and yet garment workers are paid so little that they find it difficult to meet their basic needs for housing, food, and healthcare. One has to wonder how far removed corporate fashion is from their humanity to pay the individuals making up the backbone of their industry less than they can afford to live on.

One has to wonder how far removed corporate fashion is from their humanity to pay the individuals making up the backbone of their industry less than they can afford to live on.

Ayesha Barenblat, founder and CEO or Remake, explained in an interview that “SB62 ensures basic human rights — it ensures that the women that make our fashion in California make $15 minimum, and fashion brands in opposition essentially want to continue engaging in the exploitation of the women that bring our fashion to life.” This bill is the gateway towards ethical treatment for garment makers in Los Angeles, and globally.

An industry worth billions should not be paying its garment workers dollars a day.

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