Garment contractors in the US have been fined for labor law violations. A worksite operating under the name of Pure Cotton had 57 employees. Most worked up to 65 hours a week for less than the minimum wage and without overtime. Few were covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Two workers, ages 15 and 16, were operating industrial sewing machines in violation of California’s child labor laws.
Four other garment manufacturing contractors were operating in the same building without licenses. Wage theft is endemic in the garment industry. In 2016, the US Department of Labor investigated 77 Los Angeles garment factories and found that workers were paid as little as four dollars and an average of seven dollars an hour for ten-hour days spent sewing clothes for retailers including Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx.
Up to 85 per cent of Los Angeles garment manufacturers violate California wage and hour laws. Although the contractors who make garments can be caught and fined, the brand-name retailers whose pricing structure incentivizes wage theft may escape legal liability. Further, enforcement priorities seem to focus on punishing wage theft rather than rehabilitating garment workers.
Garment workers who are not paid as required by law may file claims against the contractor who hired them, the manufacturers whose garments they produce, and sometimes the retailer.