Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — “We’re getting better at finding contractors that violate the law,” Maria Echaveste, administrator of the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, said Thursday.
She was discussing the agency’s latest quarterly installment of its Garment Enforcement Report. The report, to be released today, covers contractors who have been found to have violated wage laws and the manufacturers that use these contractors. It is designed to alert retailers about their suppliers.
The new report states that in 194 investigations conducted from July through September, infractions were found at 118 shops. It cites 71 contractors who paid back wages ranging from $1,000 to $52,538, for a total of $786,264.
The previous quarterly report turned up violations at 131 of 223 businesses investigated and netted workers $699,323 in back wages.
The report, like much of Labor’s anti-sweatshop campaign, is controversial because of its use of publicity to pressure manufacturers and retailers into monitoring contractors. Opponents point out the report lists contractors’ manufacturer customers, regardless of whether the manufacturers were parties to the contracts under which the wage violations were committed.
Still, one of the more prominent manufacturers on the latest list, Jessica McClintock, greeted her company’s appearance on the latest list with equanimity. McClintock is also on Labor’s Trendsetters list, which cites companies that have made outstanding efforts to combat sweatshops.
In a telephone interview Thursday, McClintock said her presence on both lists illustrates how difficult it is to police the garment industry.
“You can try your best to solve all the problems, but it’s almost impossible to monitor them all the time,” she said. Once Labor notified her firm of the problem, McClintock said the contractor, Sun Look Garment of San Francisco, paid the back wages. Labor did not have information on the amount of back wages due on the McClintock contract.