A U.S. Department of Labor survey found that some Southern California garment-sewing contractors and manufacturers were paid as little as $1.58 an hour. Officials stated that many workers in this industry continue to be the victims of wage theft and employers’ illegal pay practices.
“Despite our efforts to hold Southern California’s garment industry employers accountable, we continue to see people who make clothes sold by some of the nation’s leading retailers working in sweatshops,” Ruben Rosalez, a regional administrator for the Labor Department in San Francisco, said in a statement.
“Many people shopping for clothes in stores and online are likely unaware that the ‘Made in the USA’ merchandise they’re buying was, in fact, made by people earning far less than the U.S. law requires.”
“Contractors and manufacturers included in the survey produce garments for sale by national retailers, including Bombshell Sportswear, Dillard’s, Lulus, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Socialite, Stitch Fix and Von Maur,” according to a news release.
KTLA reached out to these stores for comment.
The new findings were released in The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division 2022 Southern California Garment Survey, based on data from 50 garment contractors and manufacturers.
In the study, officials also noted that 80% of employers violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. More than 50% of the time, employers “illegally paid workers part or all their wages off the books, with payroll records either deliberately forged or not provided,” a news release said.
Officials also noted that 32% of the time, employers were paying workers piece-rate wages, a practice considered illegal since last year.
“Specifically, the studies determined the average sewing fee was $2.75 below the amount needed per garment for sewing contractors to comply with federal wage standards. Contractors who paid employees in compliance with the law received a higher sewing fee, ranging from $17.50 to $35 per garment,” a news release said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law mandating hourly pay for garment workers, a measure that was created to “protect marginalized low-wage workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants, ensuring they are paid what they are due and improving workplace conditions,” a news release said.
In the fiscal year 2022, Southern California investigators helped recover more than $892,000 in back wages and liquidated damages for 296 workers and secured agreements with manufacturers to monitor contractors to ensure FLSA compliance, the report said.
This victory accounts for a small portion of the 40,000 garment workers in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported.