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Landmark garment worker legislation could change sustainable fashion – WWD

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California could take another step forward as the sustainable fashion capital of the United States

Last week, SB 1399, known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, passed the California House Credit Committee and is making its way into the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

While the usual opposition comes from pro-business groups in the state, supporters are defending the bill as a turning point for sustainable fashion.

Task forces like Remake and one of the bill’s cosponsors, the Garment Worker Center, call it “historic legislation,” with the potential to found “Made in USA” products and all of the manufacturing of Los Angeles clothing in an ethical and sustainable future.

“Governor Newsom has a unique opportunity to reshape the California fashion industry as a sustainable capital of the United States by signing SB 1399 into law,” said Ayesha Barenblat, founder of the nonprofit organization. lucrative Remake, in anticipation of Bill’s progress. “Sustainable fashion is the future, and who better than California to be the American leader?”

Since launching the #PayUp campaign in the first week of April, Remake has helped recoup $ 22 billion in canceled or delayed production orders, claiming that 19 brands – including Gap, VF Corp., H&M and others – were encouraged to act through his pressure tactics. Remake relies on its core supplier relationships to account for these gains, only removing brands from the campaign’s naughty list when it can verify that the money is “changing hands.”

“I would say I think the bill is bordering on revolutionary, not only for garment workers, but also for other low-wage workers in agriculture and agriculture,” said Ngozi Okaro , executive director of Custom Collaborative, a New York-based workforce. non-profit development and social enterprise that has opened up a wealth of entrepreneurial and design opportunities in the fashion industry for women from low-income and immigrant communities. “What’s important is that it empowers everyone along the value chain.”

Although the bill met with some opposition, mainly from the California Chamber of Commerce, Marissa Nuncio, director of the GWC, said: “There is no really convincing argument as to why”, noting that workers “simply ask to be paid minimum wage.”

In an attempt to close a liability loophole that creates’ layers of outsourcing ‘and negligible piece-rate pay, as the bill noted, the nuncio added:’ If brands are now hooked, our intention and our insight is, they will be much closer monitoring their supply chain. “

The most sustainable state?

California has become something of a leader in environmental fields such as air pollution, with the city of Los Angeles forming the first air pollution control program – the Bureau of Smoke Control – as early as 1945. More it later became the first state in the country to enact requirements for automotive emission control technology.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, which called the state an “early proving ground” for its climate work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the first decade after the enactment of the Global Warming Solutions Act from 2006 (AB 32), “the California economy is growing while carbon pollution decreases.

“California has the ability to be America’s sustainable fashion capital because we don’t just have [research and development] capabilities, but the ability to build a tightly knit and sustainable supply chain with our farms, textile mills and tailoring factories within the state, ”added Remake’s Barenblat, noting that despite this hub of garment manufacturing, “The state has most essential fashion workers failed with very low wages and unsafe working conditions.

Without the bill, there is a risk that the “devaluation of Made in America,” as Kristen Fanarakis, founder of the Los Angeles-made luxury women’s clothing line Senza Tempo Fashion, puts it, will continue.

“To me it means something,” Fanarakis said of the bill. She describes her facility as a “workshop, not a factory”, placing greater emphasis on the operation and the workers who support it. Fanarakis worked with the GWC behind the scenes to lobby lawmakers to pass the Garment Workers Protection Act.

While GWC caters to the needs of garment workers, it is also working with local small businesses, or what it calls “allies on the road,” to understand their needs in light of the changes proposed in the bill. Nonce summed up the concerns of a few small businesses by saying, “They also say that you can do the right thing, but it’s certainly a lot harder to compete with sweatshop competitors.”

On this subject, Okaro and Fanarakis turned to basic mathematics.

“What this means is that your business model wasn’t really viable if your business model couldn’t comply with the law,” Okaro said.

Fanarakis questions the loss of tax revenue in local economies due to wage theft and how “if these [fast-fashion] companies pay legal wages as they all claim, how are they still in business? “

The road ahead

In Remake’s latest documentary, “Made in America,” which is part of its “Made In” series, the filmmakers tour several Los Angeles-based garment factories, inviting local garment workers, designers and even a listener. factory to probe the situation.

Remake, Los Angeles, SB 1399, Made in USA, Made in America, Garment Workers, Manufacturing

From the nonprofit Remake’s “Made In” series, documenting US-made fashion in the garment industry in Los Angeles.
Courtesy

In summary, according to Barenblat, these workers – many of whom have started producing personal protective equipment amid the pandemic and have even fallen ill themselves in some cases – are vital.

And the Garment Worker Protection Act could ultimately prove the safety of essential workers in the fashion industry.

“If anything, it shows that there is an opportunity for change, growth and progress,” Okaro said. “We can all rearrange and rethink the way we do things.”

Adding the sentiment of the California Chamber of Commerce, the nuncio expressed her hope for the changes happening now, which have been greater than in the previous two decades she advocated in the workplace. “All I see is a recovery, with more and more brands and projects coming together to commit to sustainable fashion.”



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