Labour exploitation in Los Angeles’ garment factories

From www.laist.com  |

Julia Wick’s article remember us that the problem of labour abuse in the garment industry is not only a concern of countries as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others. This pervasive problem is a reality in countries suhc as, for example, Spain and the United States. Specifically in the latter the industry is exploiting workers in some zones of the country:

Los Angeles is widely known as a film capital, but few people realize it’s also the center of the country’s garment manufacturing industry. Los Angeles houses the largest cut and sew apparel base in the U.S., and according to a new report, conditions for many of our city’s garment workers are dangerous and unhealthy. The report, which was released by the UCLA Labor Center on Friday, found that conditions in America’s garment capital are “deeply unsafe and unhealthy for many of those who make what is stocked at popular clothing shops and department stores.” The Labor Center’s research with the Garment Worker Center (GWC) and UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health (UCLA LOSH) and the findings were based on interviews with several hundred garment workers.

Close to three-quarters of respondents surveyed told the Labor Center that their workplaces were brimming with dust, and 60% reported that excessive heat and dust accumulation due to poor ventilation rendered it difficult to work, and even to breathe. That dust exposure can lead to serious respiratory impairments and diseases like asthma, bronchitis, and other more acute and chronic conditions such as byssinosis (“brown lung disease”), according to the report. Additionally, more than 40% of those surveyed reported that that exits and doors in their shops were regularly blocked, which poses a critical safety concern, particularly if a fire were to break out. Nearly half of respondents observed that workplace bathrooms were soiled and unmaintained. Although the industry has declined since the mid-1990s, there are still approximately 45,000 garment workers in Los Angeles, a number that’s roughly equivalent to the entire UCLA student body, or the population of the city of Palm Springs. The majority of those 45,000 people make far less than minimum wage and work an average of 60 hours a week to provide for themselves and their families. Most of production “is concentrated in and around the Fashion District, a little bit south of downtown, but a lot are now moving to South L.A.,” Garment Worker Center Organizing Coordinator Mar Martinez told LAist .

Salaries are also below the miminum wage, and obviusly do not get the living wage:

Payment in L.A.’s garment industry is based around something called a price rate system, where workers are compensated for each piece of clothing they produce, as opposed to a set hourly wage. This pay-per-unit system triggers increased workplace injuries, because it pressures workers to complete jobs at unsafe speeds—all while typically sitting on a metal folded chair hunched over a flat, non-adjustable workstation, performing precise and repetitious tasks for 10 to 12 hours at a time. Those inherent workplace dangers are further compounded by the fact that a staggering 82.2% of respondents had not received any workplace training prior to, or during, the course of their job. According to the report, “many laughed incredulously” when they were asked if there were emergency plans in place in case of an accident. According to the Garment Worker’s Center, garment workers earn an average of $5.15 per hour, which is staggeringly sub-standard. As of July 1, Los Angeles has a city-mandated minimum wage of $10.50 per hour; even if a garment worker was logging 60 hour work weeks, they would still fall below the poverty line making $17,160 a year with a $5.15 hourly wage. For context, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a working-class area like Southeast Los Angeles is $1,414—or $16,968 a year.

See the original news here