Factory Conditions in LA as Bad as Abroad

While it’s generally assumed that ethical manufacturing and Los Angeles – two cornerstones of the Made in USA movement – go hand-in-hand, it turns out that’s not always the case.

A recent story from Racked spotlights the deplorable treatment of some of LA’s 45,000 garment workers. Mostly female and foreign-born, the workers are “particularly vulnerable to unfair wages, as well as poor health and safety conditions. Fear of deportation — often exploited by their employers — prevents workers from unionizing or reporting violations.”

Citing a report called “Dirty Threads, Dangerous Factories,” which was compiled by the Garment Worker Center, the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, and UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health, the article takes a deep-dive into the myriad abuses perpetrated not only by factory owners, but by the brands themselves.

Often paid at a “piece rate” — meaning workers are paid by the piece, not the hour, and usually only between $0.10 and $0.45 per piece -workers rarely, if ever, can produce enough to make minimum wage. And brands will often negotiate a lower piece rate on the buying end, pushing wages even lower.

Conditions mentioned range from unbearably hot to suffocatingly dusty. Workers have dealt with employers faking ICE raids (seriously), and 47% of those polled called the bathrooms “soiled and disgusting.” There’s even instances where workers had to bring their own toilet paper.

And while the only brands specifically mentioned in the report were Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21, and TJ Maxx (all three gave statements that were essentially the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ emoticon), they’re most likely not the only culprits.

Given the demographics that make up the offended population, and the current administration’s well-documented feelings toward them, conditions are unlikely to improve without a serious grassroots outcry.

You can read more about it at Racked.

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  • Steve

    Through history, people working under these conditions have turned to one strategy to better their lot – joining together to form a union. I hope that people who value domestic manufacturing and high road production don’t forget that making things in the US isn’t enough – and support the next step to make sure the products we but are produced as ethically as we assume they are.