Data compiled from fifty randomly-conducted compliance checks last year found that 80 percent of garment companies were violating minimum wage laws while 64 percent of manufacturers were not keeping accurate pay and time records.
Additionally, 32 percent of the time, the companies engaged in wage theft, meaning employees were not receiving compensation owed through state or federal regulation or contracts. In addition to violating minimum wage laws, companies were paying garment workers by the item rather than by the hour.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. In California, the minimum wage is $15.50. However, the Labor Department found some workers were paid as little as $1.58 an hour.
Los Angeles is home to the largest garment industry in the country, representing 83 percent of all garment manufacturing sales, according to the Garment Worker Center, a worker’s rights group representing garment workers in Los Angeles. Workers from LA’s Fashion District generate around $1.5 billion in sales each year.
In a press release last month, the Labor Department’s west coast regional administrator Ruben Rosalez described Southern California’s garment industry as “sweatshops.”
Marissa Nuncio, the director of the Garment Worker Center, told the Epoch Times that the Labor Department’s findings “clearly demonstrate ongoing wage theft,” confirming what the Center has been hearing from its members. She said the data demonstrated “familiar patterns of exploitation” on the part of the garment industry and said the Labor Department must have “more authority to enforce existing laws.”
Through its multiple investigations, the Labor Department has recovered $892,000 in back wages and damages on behalf of 296 California workers during FY2022. Since 2017, the Labor Department recovered $10.4 million on behalf of 6,000 workers nationwide.