California passes Garment Worker Protection Act
On Monday, September 27th, 2021, governor Gavin Newsom signed the Garment Worker Protection Act (SB62) into California law. This means that the more than 45,000 Californian garment workers will receive at least a minimum wage for their labor, currently 14 US dollars per hour. In comparison, garment workers have been struggling for decades under a piece pay rate system with some reporting of earning as little as 2.68 US dollars per hour.
The passing of this worker-led piece of legislation is a game-changer for the industry, as the bill’s joint liability clause will now hold brands liable for the fair and legal payment of their workers.
“This is an enormous victory for garment workers everywhere. Thanks to the efforts of garment workers, allies and Gavin Newsom, this bill will be a blueprint for a more just and accountable fashion industry worldwide,” said worker advocate NGO Remake in an email to FashionUnited.
What does SB62 entail?
But SB62 does not only mean fair pay for workers but also more transparency and making sure that no brand can self-regulate any more. In addition, it includes the Garment Special Account managed by the labour commissioner, to be dispensed in case of wages or benefits not being paid.
Among the bill’s many supporters were hundreds of sustainable fashion businesses and partnering organisations, the Garment Worker Center, California senator Maria Elena Durazo who co-authored the bill and Remake and its community. Below are a few responses regarding the victory.
Reactions to SB62
“Today we won justice for garment workers. We are one step closer to ending wage theft and holding brands accountable for exploitation they have enabled. Ethical fashion is the future,” shared senator Durazo on Twitter.
“Huge victory today. Governor GavinNewsom has signed #SB62! We are overwhelmed at this monumental moment. We’re thankful to the governor for upholding his dedication to workers’ rights and ensuring that California will no longer be the sweatshop capital of America,” tweeted the Garment Worker Center. “SB62 is signed into law. Thank you Gavin Newsom for standing with the 46,000 garment makers and making our state the frontier of sustainable fashion. This is a victory for garment makers worldwide. No longer can brands commercial practices steal from makers,” said Remake founder Ayesha Barenblat on Twitter.
“We're taking action to keep workers safe on the job and combat unfair pay practices while recognising the dignity & humanity of our workers who have helped build the fifth largest economy in the world,” commented the Office of the Governor or California on Twitter a few hours ago.