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Behind a $13 shirt, a $6-an-hour worker

Behind a $13 shirt, a $6-an-hour worker

Posted by : Mary Wutz   /  

Eye opening article. 

"Sewing factories and wholesale manufacturers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle workers’ claims. Forever 21 has not had to pay a cent.

Like other major clothing retailers, Forever 21 avoids paying factory workers’ wage claims through a tangled labyrinth of middlemen that stands between the racks in its stores and the people who sew the clothes.

The company benefits from an 18-year-old state law that was originally intended to stamp out sweatshops but has come up short. The law allowed workers to recoup back wages from their factory boss, and any garment manufacturing company that does business with that person. Forever 21 says it is a retailer, not a manufacturer, and thus is always at least one step removed from Los Angeles factories.

One paradox of that arm’s-length relationship: Forever 21 says it often inspects factories abroad that produce its clothes as part of its “social responsibility to better protect workers,” but it doesn’t do that in Los Angeles. The company said it takes that approach because in California the Department of Labor enforces strict worker protections, whereas there’s no government body that does that for overseas factories.

Now, as retailers across the country face increasingly tough competition from e-commerce, budget brands like Forever 21 are putting more and more pressure on suppliers to keep prices low."



“This whole problem devolves from the retailer,” said David Weil, the former head of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which led that investigation. “They force the production costs to as low as they want because of their power in the supply chain, with the result of ultimately the workers bearing the whole cost and risk of the system.”

Read the entire article on LA TIMES



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