Gov. Newsom signs bill expanding protections for garment workers

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Pablo Mendez Mendez is holding a piece of garment next to a sewing machine
Pablo Mendez operates a sewing machine in 2017. SB 62, just signed into law, seeks to improve wages for garment workers.. (Claire Hannah Collins / Los Angeles Times)

Garment workers in California will be paid an hourly rate and receive other new protections under a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday afternoon.

SB 62, which faced heavy opposition from fashion brands and trade groups, aims to overhaul a pay model for garment workers that has led to subminimum wages in the industry. The law will expand liability for fashion brands that have largely been able to avoid responsibility for rampant wage theft by their suppliers.

“California is holding corporations accountable and recognizing the dignity and humanity of our workers, who have helped build the fifth-largest economy in the world,” Newsom said in a statement. “These measures 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.”

California Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower, who was with the governor as he signed SB 62, in a post on Twitter called it "fierce leadership! Inspired by all the garment worker leaders who don’t give up."

The California Chamber of Commerce put the bill on its "job killer" list. Since taking office, Newsom has signed only one so-called "job killer" bill per year.

Fashion brands and trade groups said the law would make retailers unfairly liable for unpaid wages of third-party contractors over whom they have no control and would devastate the garment manufacturing industry in Los Angeles because fashion labels will increasingly seek to contract with manufacturers outside California.

Newsom's approval of the bill marks the end of a two-year campaign. SB 62 is a revamped version of a bill that died last legislative session when, amid the pandemic, lawmakers failed to call it for a floor vote before the midnight deadline.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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