FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IR # 96-29
Monday, July 8, 1996

CONTACT:
Troy Swauger
(415) 972-8835
Rick Rice
(714) 935-2812

Unique Online Link Battles Problem Sweatshops

SAN FRANCISCO -- Department of Industrial Relations Director Lloyd W. Aubry Jr., announced today that California's garment industry now has a high-tech weapon to employ against illegal sweatshop operations.

"Legitimate garment manufacturers can surf the Net to get information on approximately 4,000 contractors registered with the State Labor Commissioner," Aubry said. "That key information offers businesses an immediate warning concerning potential risk of contracting with an unregistered garment manufacturer."

Under state law, any manufacturer who contracts with an unregistered contractor can be held jointly liable for unpaid wages and penalties levied by the Labor Commissioner. It is a risk that can cost a company thousands of dollars.

Businesses seeking registration information can locate it through DIR's Internet Homepage found at http://www.dir.ca.gov. Once the user clicks on the database file he or she can access information using the company's name, its address, its license registration number, even its zip code. Any questions about the findings or the system, which are updated every two weeks, should be directed by e-mail to DLSE.licensing@dir.ca.gov.

Labor Commissioner Roberta Mendonca said the online service is another tool she hopes to use in efforts to rid the state of illegal contractors who fail to obtain a registration to operate legally, pay their employees below minimum wage and no overtime, and often maintain no workers' compensation. Likewise, she added, the service can be utilized by smaller contractors who want to work only with legitimate companies

"With our new online service, all businesses can easily do their homework before establishing a business link," Mendonca said. "Before companies ever take a step to formalizing business arrangements, manufacturers and contractors can research the legitimacy of their potential partners." The online registration verification is one of five elements unveiled in May by DIR to promote compliance inside the vast manufacturing industry. The five-point plan also includes budget enhancements, increased education, workplace safety outreach and a universal business license program to simplify the application process for garment manufacturers.

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