Dear Member of Congress,
Fashion is a $3 trillion global industry, but the garment workers central to the industry are still subject to abuses including forced labor and extreme poverty pay in many manufacturing supply chains around the world (1). While the U.S. made historic progress ending this exploitation in 2021 by passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and California’s Garment Worker Protection Act, garment workers still suffer the second-highest rate of wage theft of all workers, with some earning as little as $2.68 an hour, far below the federal minimum wage.
A major cause of these inadequate wages for garment workers is the piece rate system of pay exploited by some factories, by which workers earn pennies per garment sewn rather than the minimum wage. These abuses are systemic, as layers of contracting separate brands from their garment workers, creating supply chains with no oversight or transparency. Many garment manufacturing jobs have also been offshored overseas where unethical labor standards persist. The U.S. imports $28.8 billion in apparel from China—up from $2.8 billion 30 years ago (1). In order to protect domestic garment workers and set a global example, the U.S. government must take a stand against the lack of transparency and labor protections.
Today we demand that you pass the Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change (FABRIC) Act to ensure workplace protections for garment workers and further the U.S. as a global leader in responsible apparel production.
The FABRIC Act reweaves American garment manufacturing in 5 central pillars:
1. Enforcing minimum wage standards and eliminating wage theft in U.S. garment factories.
2. Increasing accountability on brands and retailers to combat workplace violations.
3. Increasing transparency.
4. Incentivizing reshoring with tax credits.
5. Creating a $40 million Domestic Garment Manufacturing Support Program aimed at revitalizing the industry.
As part of holding bad actors accountable and promoting transparency, a nationwide garment industry registry would be established through the Department of Labor. Wage theft will also be addressed by setting hourly pay in the garment industry and eliminating piece rate pay until the minimum wage is met to ensure jobs with dignity. Productivity incentives on top remain protected.
The FABRIC Act also ensures brands and manufacturers will be supported and even incentivized to protect and employ domestic workers. The Domestic Garment Manufacturing Support Program supplies grants to manufacturers and brands for equipment costs, safety improvements, and training and workforce development. Nonprofits focused on manufacturing workplace development may apply as well. Additionally, the bill introduces a 30% reshoring tax credit for garment manufacturers who move manufacturing operations to the US. These opportunities put the U.S. in a unique position to accelerate domestic manufacturing coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic and lead the world in the booming $5 billion global market for responsibly produced apparel.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the FABRIC Act on May 13, 2022 . We ask that Members of Congress sign on as co-sponsors and support the passing of the FABRIC Act to set a precedent for the ethical treatment of U.S garment workers.
The United States’ 95,000 garment workers, many of whom are women, creating the clothes that support the $9 billion U.S. garment industry deserve fair wages and ethical labor conditions protected at a federal level (1). The FABRIC Act must be passed and signed as soon as possible.
This petition will be sent out to relevant U.S. Congress members.