Garment Worker Protection Act Deferred After Vote Deadline Is Missed

A constitutional deadline passed before voting could take place in the California State Assembly for SB 1399, the Garment Worker Protection Act, crushing hopes for the bill to be passed in 2020.

The bill sought to end piece-rate pay, a traditional way that sewers and garment workers have been compensated. It was scheduled to be voted on Aug. 28, the final day of the State Assembly’s legislative session. Controversial bills on housing and police-reform issues took precedence. By law, if no action is taken on a bill by the end of the year, bill advocates must start over again and reintroduce it.

Democratic State Senator María Elena Durazo and the author of the bill said that she intends to do more work on the bill. Durazo serves the 24th district, which represents East Los Angeles, parts of downtown Los Angeles and neighborhoods surrounding downtown.

“I’m disheartened that SB1399 did not prevail in the final hours of the legislative session,” she said in a prepared statement. “As we regroup to plan for the upcoming legislative session, our garment-worker bill will continue to be a priority, because every day wage theft continues to cheat workers out of their pay.”

Ilse Metchek, the president of the California Fashion Association, said that the turn of events will help domestic manufacturing. Her group considered SB 1399 to be a poorly planned bill.

“The laws are very clear. Piece-work law is very clear. Piece-work must be paid based on minimum wage. You cannot underpay on piece work,” Metchek said. “The SB 1399 bill was an overreach.”

SB 1399 advocates believed their bill closed a loophole where retailers ducked responsibility for conditions of workers for contractors with which they do business.