The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) recently opposed discrete elements of California's Senate Bill No. 62 (SB 62) related to employment in garment manufacturing sector. Although well-intentioned, the bill, in its current form, would, among other things, impose unprecedented joint liability on businesses with no control over garment workers, AAFA said.
“If this provision becomes law, it would drive garment manufacturing out of California and lead to the loss of jobs in California’s garment manufacturing sector, not because companies don’t want to do the right thing, but because there would be heightened risk of being penalised precisely for doing the right thing,” AAFA president and chief executive officer Steve Lamar wrote in a recent letter to the California State Assembly.
Though there are elements of this bill that AAFA supports, the brand guarantor provision, creating joint and severable liability, represents an extraordinary misunderstanding of who is responsible for the payment of workers’ wages and will worsen the situation of garment workers by creating an exodus of brands from California and subsequent job loss, the letter said.
“This will only exacerbate the economic pressures behind the situation the legislation is intended to avert,” it said.
Presently, all businesses engaged in garment manufacturing must register with the California labour commissioner and pay a registration fee. If a worker experiences a a labour violation, his employer as well as any manufacturer who contracts directly with the employer is jointly liable. SB 62 significantly expands this joint liability by creating per se joint liability between the employer, manufacturer and any other company in the garment supply chain, including licensors.
“The bill, as currently drafted, does not recognise that brands or buyers may have little to no control over how a particular garment factory employer manages their payroll or enterprise finances. Further, any ‘brand guarantor’ would be liable for the worker’s entire wage claim, not only wages for time spent on garments related to their brand,” Malar wrote.
“While proponents of this bill seek to punish irresponsible buyers who do not pay contractors enough money for garment contracts, this bill in actuality punishes good actors, as we note in our example below. Furthermore, the legislation includes intellectual property licensors, who do not issue purchase orders or set prices,” he added.
Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)