Friday the 13th this year was anything but scary for labor, supply chain and domestic manufacturing advocates! On that day, NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the 1st of its kind legislation impacting the fashion industry - the Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change (FABRIC) Act.
The legislation builds on California’s SB62, the Garment Workers Protection Act. The federal bill would set a minimum wage floor by prohibiting piece-rate compensation, unless there is a collective bargaining agreement in place or as an incentive measure on top of the minimum wage. Wage accountability would apply throughout the supply chain as brands would be accountable for labor practices of their contractors and subcontractors.
In addition, the bill seeks to promote domestic manufacturing through creating a 30% reshoring tax credit for garment manufacturers that move their operations to the US and a $40 million Domestic Garment Manufacturing Support Program to provide grants to manufacturers for equipment, facilities safety improvements, and training and workforce development initiatives.
So, with this bill, are we one step closer to a #FashionCzar? The bill would create a new Undersecretary of Labor of the Garment Industry to oversee enforcement of the amended Fair Labor Standards Act provisions for fashion. While the call for a Fashion Czar was for a high level position to oversee all aspects of the fashion industry – not just labor – the establishment of this new advisor is validation of the underlying need for coordinated oversight of this critical US industry.
The bill was introduced with three co-sponsors: Senators Booker, Warren, and Sanders. There are no Republican co-sponsors as of the writing of this newsletter. While Democrats control the Legislative and Executive branches in Washington, they hold a very narrow majority and Republican support is needed for a bill to become a law. Many Republicans in Congress have been critical of China and their dominance in the manufacturing sector, so perhaps this bill which promotes domestic manufacturing will be of interest to them. With the 117th Congress winding down, there is not a lot of time for consideration of this bill, but we can expect the efforts to continue next year. More information on the bill can be found on the Senator’s website.
In the New York State, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, known simply as, the Fashion Act, S.7428 would require fashion retail sellers and manufacturers with over $100 million in revenue worldwide to disclose their environmental & social due diligence policies. Additionally, it would establish a community benefit fund. The proposed bill enjoys broad coalition support as evidenced by a rally held in Albany last week in support of passage. Opponents of the legislation are in two camps. On one side, are those who feel the legislation does not go far enough and want more teeth. And on the other side, are those who are just against any regulation of the industry. Negotiations are continuing and updated bill language to reflect these talks is expected any day. But, the clock is ticking. The NYS legislature is set to adjourn for the year on June 3. In order the bill to become law this year, there would need to be action in a legislative committee, a vote on the Floor in both the Senate and the Assembly of the same bill and be signed by the Governor! That is a lot to accomplish in 30 days. If the bill does not become law this year, then it would have to be re-introduced next year with a new sponsor, as Senator Biaggi is not running for re-election in the State Senate. Stay tuned for timely updates in May from PoliticallyInFashion.
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