Have you heard about the FABRIC Act brought before the Senate this summer? In a fashion industry bent on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing, this Act takes a stand to honor workers and bring more fashion creation back to the US. Here's a look at the potential changes it could spark.
NY-12 Representative Carolyn B. Maloney introduced Senator Gillibrand's legislation, the Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change (FABRIC) Act of 2022 (Press Release), in July. And for anyone interested in fair wages for workers, US garment making, and creating a workforce for tomorrow, this has become important legislation to watch.
Looking for the full bill's text? Use this link.
Fair Wages for Garment Workers
A key part of the Act addresses a commonly used and abused compensation strategy employed by manufacturers in the fashion world. Garment workers of today often are paid by 'piece rates.' The new legislation would end this practice, ensuring that garment workers make a true minimum wage.
How does piece rate pay work?
A company pays a certain amount for each piece of a garment that is sewn. Workers who create more pieces, get paid more.
So, the more you work, even well over 40 hours, the more you get paid. This creates a system where workers are toiling for hours to create a sufficient number of garments to create sufficient income.
Companies are supposed to do calculations to ensure that someone working at a standard rate and work week makes at least minimum wage for those hours. This isn't always the case.
Ending this practice would ensure everyone makes a minimum wage for the hours they work. It would also allow workers to get paid for hours beyond the standard work week. Some might say this would limit productivity, but there is a specific clause in the law that strictly says bonuses are not prohibited - just piece rate wage payment without first a minimum wage payment.
Brands would face Liability Standards
Brands today can wash their hands of liability to the garment workers that create their fashions. Separation exists since manufacturers can create garments for many large Brands. This means garment workers don't work for the Brands themselves but for manufacturing owners.
With this legislation, Brands and their manufacturing partners would be held accountable for labor practices. This ensures that both the public facing Brand and the manufacturer must police standards.
Establish Registry of Garment Manufacturers & Increase Transparency
If the legislation becomes official, each manufacturer will be required to submit information regarding their business. Their credentials would be evaluated and then a certificate provided to the manufacturers who qualify to be displayed where workers can see it. The certificate can be revoked and civil penalties imposed if a manufacturer is not meeting standards.
Bringing Back US-Made
Although there are definitely still US-made garments, they represent a very small percentage of clothing sold in the US today. But when you see "Made in the US," it means more jobs available here, a stronger economy, and a certain level of safety and environmental standards. The new legislation would help make more of this happen.
The Fabric Act establishes $40 million dollars to a Domestic Garment Manufacturing Support Program and provides a 30% tax credit for bringing back manufacturing to the US.
In many places, workers are aging out and investment is needed to sustain and grow. Bringing back industry would grow jobs in rural areas where factories lie dormant and create new industry.
What can you do?
Signing this petition is a first step. But don't forget to call your representatives and let them know how you feel about creating fair working conditions for garment workers and bringing back US garment industry.
Don't know who your representatives are? Use this tool from the House of Representatives - Enter your Zip Code and find out.
Don't know who your Senators are: Use this tool from the US Senate - Use the State Dropdown on Top Left to Find Your Senators.
And, as always, celebrate and support locally, regionally, and nationally made clothing that is grown, milled and created in the US.