Eliminating sweatshops with SB 62 is crucial in leveling the playing field for fashion brands that know how to balance profits, people and the planet.
By Susie Buell, Special at CalMatters
Susie T. Buell is the co-founder of the global lifestyle company Esprit de Corps. Since selling the business, Buell has dedicated herself to philanthropy and politics, and continues to support climate solutions and programs that develop leadership in women and girls, [email protected]ake.world.
I co-founded the Esprit brand in the late 1960s to create ready-to-wear clothing that gave women a way to express their individuality and joie de vivre. After seeing all the garbage and pollution in the industry, I started to push the idea of sustainable and ethical fashion.
Spirits 1992 Ecollection, made from organic cotton, reclaimed materials and natural dyes, was decades before its time. We have proven that you can make a profit by selling cool clothes and doing good for the world around you.
Today, fashion is at a crossroads. Incredibly, ethical and sustainable clothing is coming soon $ 8.25 billion global market. One of my granddaughters, a Generation Z, is part of a generation that massively supports brands with sustainable principles. On the flip side, many brands continue to produce climate-destructive volumes of clothing using exploited labor, and this is made possible by outdated policies right here in California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has a key opportunity to side with a brighter future for the fashion industry and grow California’s economy with the Garment Worker Protection Act, Senate Bill 62, presented by State Senator Mara Elena Durazo, a Democrat from Los Angeles.
For fashion to thrive in the years to come and for our planet to exist beyond the lives of my grandchildren, we must provide the next generation of responsible clothing brands with the right environment to be successful. I think SB 62 is the right tool to get us there.
California’s 46,000 tailors are consistently underpaid, receiving an average of $ 5.85 an hour (and some as low as $ 2.68 an hour) while working cramped and dirty factories while making clothes for major global brands. The Garment Workers Protection Act offers a solution by ending the piece-rate system, whereby garment manufacturers earn pennies per garment sewn, instead of the minimum wage.
It’s a mysterious system that’s been in place since my early days in the fashion industry, and it must go. The bill also seeks to hold brands accountable when factory wages fall below the legal minimum. This fixes the problem at its root, as the low prices that brands pay factories are what drives the sweatshop conditions, according to the US Department of Labor.
The minimum wage for garment workers is a fundamental equity issue, but it is also a climate issue. Underpaying garment workers not only costs their communities and taxpayers hard-earned resources, but also allows the fashion industry to manufacture far more items than consumers need and the planet. can’t take it. Fashion is responsible for 4% of global carbon emissions as a result of this overproduction.
Eliminating sweatshops is also crucial in leveling the playing field for brands that know how to balance profits, people and the planet. There are over 150 companies that endorse the SB 62, many of which produce in California. They include LAs Reformation, a sustainable fashion brand loved by my granddaughters age group; Everything for Ramon, a Mexican-American brand that makes high-end basics in Los Angeles; and Saitex, the world’s cleanest denim factory, which brought 230 jobs in California after the relocation last year.
I see leadership among these companies to take responsibility for garment workers, but I also see a huge opportunity for California as a world leader in responsibly manufactured clothing, a faster growing market than the traditional fashion industry. We should all recognize those brands and producers who support SB 62 for what they are: the future of fashion.
The next generation of California consumers and businesses have taken the idea of ethical and sustainable fashion further than I could have imagined when I first launched Esprit. Imagine what they could do with smart policies like SB 62 and the governor’s forward-thinking support.
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