Rick Rice (LA)
LOS ANGELES -- State and federal labor law enforcement officials today announced the results of a recent survey of basic labor law compliance within the California garment manufacturing industry. The survey indicates that there are widespread violations of the laws relating to employment in the state's sewing shops.
The agencies said that a random survey of sewing firms in the state conducted in February and March indicated that workers in this low-paying industry are often paid less than the current minimum wage of $4.25 an hour and often do not receive the appropriate overtime pay. The survey also indicates that nearly one-third of the companies investigated appear to be operating in the underground economy by paying their employees in cash without the appropriate deduction statements. In addition, a significant number of companies investigated had serious health and safety violations.
"It is apparent from the survey results that the employers operating outside of the law are having a significant negative impact on employees, law-abiding employers and the California taxpayer," said Lloyd W. Aubry, Jr., Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations. "Clearly, our agencies have been focusing much of our joint enforcement and educational resources on the right industry. While the compliance levels are still totally unacceptable, it is important to note that significant progress has been made over the last two years."
Informal surveys in 1992 showed the level of violations of minimum wage and overtime provisions to be approximately 80 percent. This new survey shows the noncompliance level reduced to 50 percent for minimum wage violations and 68 percent for overtime violations.
"The Labor Department's participation in the federal/state joint enforcement effort in California is part of a nationwide program of tough and responsible enforcement," according to Maria Echaveste, national Wage and Hour Administrator in Washington, D.C. Echaveste, who said she is beefing up the compliance staff of her agency in Los Angeles with five additional bilingual investigators, added that increased educational outreach to the employers and employees is also needed.
The survey was conducted throughout the state by members of the Targeted Industries Partnership Program (TIPP), a joint educational and enforcement activity of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (DOL), and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). The intent of the survey was to establish a baseline standard by which to plan future joint enforcement activities in the industry and also to create a standard by which to measure the success of such efforts.
Victoria Bradshaw, State Labor Commissioner, said, "It is apparent from the survey results that no single public agency alone can address the long-standing and wide range of problems found in the industry which were brought on over time by a host of demographic, economic and social forces."
"The industry has historically had a large number of compliance problems, which is why we focused on garment manufacturing in the Targeted Industries Partnership Program," Bradshaw added.
TIPP was launched in November, 1992, as a joint enforcement vehicle by the state and federal agencies to increase enforcement efforts in the garment manufacturing and agricultural industries by maximizing existing publicly funded resources and eliminating any piecemeal or duplicative enforcement efforts.
"If our survey results are indicative of the industry as a whole, then garment workers currently working in the sewing shops are owed tens of millions in back wages," said William Buhl, regional administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
In addition to the Targeted Industries Partnership Program, Governor Pete Wilson's Joint Enforcement Strike Force, created by Executive Order W-66-93 to attack the underground economy, has designated garment manufacturing as a targeted industry and has assigned up to an additional twenty DLSE and EDD investigators to do inspections since that joint enforcement program began in February, 1994.
"Although there is no quick fix under the Targeted Industries Partnership Program, we have struck upon an effective method of deterrence through enhanced enforcement using all of those public agencies that share jurisdiction in the garment industry," Bradshaw said. "In order for the garment industry to continue thriving in California, this deterrence must go hand in hand with increased educational and training opportunities for employers in the industry."
The participating agencies in TIPP will be holding a public focus meeting on April 25, 1994 in Los Angeles to continue the involvement of manufacturers and contractors in the process of finding solutions to the compliance problems in the garment industry. TIPP agencies have been working with manufacturers and contractors associations to facilitate compliance in the industry. Additional seminars will foster better compliance by improving the ability of the garment shop contractors to understand and comply with the state and federal laws. In conjunction with other state and federal agencies, TIPP is promoting a training initiative designed to upgrade the skills of the garment workers and to afford garment contractors basic management knowledge in operating a small business.
Not registered with State of California 11.6% Recordkeeping violations 72.5 Minimum wage violations 50.7 Overtime violations 68.1 Child labor violations 2.9 Illegal homework 14.5 Cash payments 30.4 Failure to have workers' compensation insurance 10.1 Posting violations 56.5 Serious safety and health violations 35.0 All safety and health violations 92.8 Overall federal violations 79.7 Overall California violations 76.8
- The average number of violations per employer investigated was 4.17.
- The average wages owed to employees for the preceding 90 days was $218.84 or an estimated $875.36 on an annualized basis.