LOS ANGELES — A sweep of a building in the Los Angeles Fashion District by federal and state labor officials turned up labor violations at 10 garment contractors making goods for more than 30 retailers nationwide.
This story first appeared in the December 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to information released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, during the sweep investigators discovered workers being paid by the piece, rather than the $8 an hour state minimum wage or the $7.25 hourly federal one, and no overtime wages. The findings resulted in apparel manufacturers and contractors paying $326,200 to cover the back wages of 185 employees.
“The extent of the violations discovered by these investigations was disappointing,” said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. “Retailers need to actively ensure that clothes produced in the U.S. for sale to the American public are made by workers who are paid at least the U.S. minimum wage and proper overtime. Federal, state, local and industry stakeholders can work together to foster a vibrant and compliant domestic fashion industry.”
Julie Su, California’s labor commissioner, said, “The garment industry is a vital part of the economy of Los Angeles and California. State law prohibits garment manufacturers from operating without a proper license, from violating state minimum wage and overtime laws, and from playing shell games to avoid paying workers properly. We are intent on making sure that sweatshop practices are eliminated so that consumers can proudly purchase garments made in L.A., honest companies can compete and garment workers can thrive.”
The unannounced sweep, which took place earlier this year, was at 830 South Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles, a building where there’s been a history of labor law violations and complaints. Merchandise manufactured by the contractors in the building was bound for retailers that included Aldo Group Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., Dillard’s Inc., Forever 21 Inc., HSN Inc., Rainbow Apparel Inc., Ross Stores Inc., TJX Cos. Inc., Urban Outfitters Inc. and Wet Seal Inc., the DOL said.
Investigators were checking contractors at the building for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. Upon determining that garments were made in violation of the act, it was requested that the contractors voluntarily not ship them until the violations were addressed. Several manufacturers, for whom the violators were producing goods, paid a portion of the back wages due and the goods were then shipped, according to the federal and state labor authorities.
The U.S. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division is engaged in a multiyear initiative focused on the Southern California garment industry, concentrated on employers in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In the past five years, the division’s Los Angeles, San Diego and West Covina offices have conducted more than 1,500 investigations of employers in Southern California’s garment industry, and 93 percent of these investigations uncovered violations.