Wednesday 10 November 2021

What is SB62 and Why Is It So Important? | Slow Fashion Simplified #3

SB62, otherwise known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, is a piece of Californian state legislation which was signed into law on 27th September of this year. You might have heard it mentioned by various different campaigning groups such as Remake or Fashion Revolution, or in publications such as Vogue. It is a ground-breaking piece of legislation which puts the welfare of garment workers in California at its centre. But what actually is it and why do we keep banging on about it?

What changes will it bring?

There’s a whole lot of stuff in the Garment Worker Protection Act. More than I can cover in this blog post (check out this article among several others on SB62 published by Remake). There are several key things to highlight however that can be looked at in 3 key areas: fair pay, transparency, and accountability.
One of the main aspects of the Garment Worker Protection Act is putting an end to the piece rate pay system. According to organisations such as Remake, some garment workers in California were being paid as little as $2.68 per hour. As a result of SB62, those same garment workers will now be paid at least $14 per hour. That is such a massive difference and will have such a huge impact in so many ways, especially as the vast majority of those workers are from minoritised ethnicities, are women, and are immigrants. 
The bill also enforces increased transparency and accountability for brands operating in California. This includes an emphasis on joint-liability for brands and garment manufacturers for the welfare of their garment workers and any discrepancies which occur. This means that brands operating in California can no longer pass off the blame for human rights scandals onto the factories they have outsourced to, claiming they apparently had no idea these things were occurring in their supply chain. SB62 forces brands to take action and take responsibility for the exploitation their wealth is created from.  
SB62 also provides more powers to the Labor Commissioner in California, allowing them to exercise more direct oversight of the brands operating in the state. This in turn holds brands further to account, provides them with someone who can enforce some consequences for when action is not taken, and also forces them to be more transparent about what exactly is going on in their supply chains.

Who is responsible for it?

The Garment Worker Protection Act didn’t come into being overnight. It was made possible from huge coalition of activists from all over the world and from many, many different organising groups. 
These have included activist groups such the Garment Worker Center, Remake, United Students Against Sweatshops, Fashion Revolution USA, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Californian politicians like Maria Elena Durazo have also been at the forefront of championing this bill, and different ethical California-based brands such as Reformation and Christy Dawn and lots of everyday people wanting to see a change have been part of making it such a success.
This coalition of change makers has been working on pushing for this bill for a long time. I remember SB62 being mentioned during my first ever Remake Community Call back in September 2020. It was then introduced to the California state senate on 7th December 2020 – yes, that was around 10 months from its introduction to the senate until the Governor signed it into law. That’s a lot of time and effort into making this happen. 
For many there was also months if not years of work before the bill was even introduced to the senate. Different forms of the bill had been introduced or conceptualised before but had not passed or gained as much traction as SB62.
Campaigners for SB62 faced lots of opposition from big fashion brands to whom the bill represented a cut to their profits as it directly targeted the system of exploitation their businesses are based on. 

But this only affects garment workers in California, right?

Nope! Well technically yes. This piece of legislation only covers garment workers in California. But that is still over 45,000 people who will have their standard of working and living significantly increased as a result of this bill. If it only affected those people, it would still be a massive win. 
However, it is a piece of legislation that will likely get replicated in a kind of domino effect across other U.S. states and in other countries around the world. We are yet to see the full effects this piece of legislation could and will have. As I’ve already mentioned, organisers have spent a long time pushing for this bill to be passed, and it was a great moment of celebration for everyone involved. Not only is this bill something to now celebrate, but it is something which I think has galvanised and motivated lots of people to act. Thousands of people emailed in to Californian legislators and to Governor Gavin Newsom about the bill from all over the world. They’re not going to stop there. 
Alongside the renewal of the Bangladesh Accord into the International Accord weeks before, the passing of SB62 shows a whole lot of potential and successes. It acts as an example that these wins certainly can be achieved and are more than possible – and that is certainly motivating for future change. 
Legal reform is by no means the end of the fight for a just fashion industry, but changes like the Garment Worker Protection Act are pretty good starting points. 

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If you liked this post you might like: What Do We Mean by Greenwashing and Woke-Washing? | SFS #2

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