The importance of America’s Fabric Act “can’t be overstated” – Vogue Business

by admin on May 18, 2022

The bill would establish a nationwide garment industry registry, through the US Department of Labor, to ensure that all garment manufacturers and contractors comply with the new labour standards. The registry would aim to “promote supply chain transparency” for brands looking for compliant producers and “identify bad actors in the industry with a demonstrated pattern of labour violations”. In addition, the bill would create a new Undersecretary of Labor of the Garment Industry to oversee enforcement.

While the bill is significant, it is also a reminder of how far the industry still needs to go. “This is groundbreaking legislation because it’s closing a loophole and because it brings joint liability between brands and retailers. But, the rights it’s ensuring for workers are not groundbreaking,” says Narayanasamy of the Worker Rights Consortium, explaining that minimum wage should be a given — a baseline to improve on, not an end goal. “It’s closing a loophole that should never have existed for as long as it did. We shouldn’t be wondering whether workers, whether it’s in the US or Bangladesh or Cambodia, are being paid their legal minimum wage.”

Some experts also have concerns that reshoring production could result in job losses in regions where brands currently manufacture, but it’s too early to judge if that would come to fruition if the Fabric Act passes. (The question also extends far beyond fashion, with other industries having to navigate similar tensions as interest in localising or regionalising production grows.) On the incentives side, besides the tax credit, the bill would create a $40 million Domestic Garment Manufacturing Support Program, administered by the Department of Labor. This would provide manufacturers with grants to support efforts addressing facilities and equipment costs, safety improvements, and training and workforce development initiatives for garment workers.

Those incentives make for “promising and forward-thinking policy”, says Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Workers Center, a Los Angeles non-profit involved in creating and passing SB62 last year. SB62 has already improved pay for some workers in California, she says, and a federal bill would have that much more impact. “Workers around the country will see better, more dignified wages, and less cutting and running by their factories,” she says. “California garment workers have demonstrated that systemic change is possible, and that there is a broader political will for labour protections in the garment industry — from fashion designers and brands to our legislators. The Fabric Act would take their vision of multilateral accountability in the supply chain, including by the fashion brands, and a fair wage system to the federal level, codifying those rights as basic labour principles.”

The bill has been widely applauded by a range of groups and interests, with backing from advocacy and labour organisations including Garment Workers Center, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Fashion Revolution, The Model Alliance, National Employment Law Project and Workers United.

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