Downtown LA Garment Factories Cited for Labor-Law Violations

Six factories that allegedly were operating under one contractor’s license will have to pay $573,704 in fines for various violations cited by the state Department of Industrial Relations.

The state Labor Commissioner’s office said it started its investigation in July after receiving a tip about possible violations taking place at a business located at 1365 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

Investigators visited the worksite, operating under the name of Pure Cotton Inc., whose owner Kyung Ho Choi told them he collected rent from other businesses but was not involved in making clothes.

His brother-in-law, Kuong Chan Kim, claimed that all the workers there were employed by his company, Union Supply Inc., which was registered as a garment manufacturer.

The state Industrial Relations department said that later investigation revealed that four other garment-manufacturing contractors were working in the same building but operating without garment licenses or workers’ compensation insurance. Kim of Union Supply allegedly charged each contractor a fee for the use of his license and workers’ compensation insurance coverage, investigators said.

The Labor Commissioner’s office said it discovered that most of the 57 employees at the site worked up to 65 hours a week for less than minimum wage, which in Los Angeles is $13.25 an hour for companies with more than 26 employees. Two workers, who were 15 and 16 years old, were operating industrial sewing machines in violation of California’s child labor laws, inspectors said.

“Shared use of a garment-manufacturing registration is illegal, and it gave these contractors an unjust economic advantage over law-abiding garment businesses,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “Sweatshop operators attempting to game the system at the expense of their competitors often do so on the backs of their own workers.”

Stop-work orders by the Labor Commissioner were issued to the four contractors operating illegally under the Union Supply license and their inventory was confiscated. They were cited for violating wage-statement and garment-registration provisions and for failure to cover employees with workers’ compensation insurance.

The Labor Commissioner’s office is currently pursuing wage-theft investigations of the contractors.

Those named in the investigation were:

• Cindy Soon Yun, with 20 employees, who was cited for $118,600. She was also cited for child-labor laws.

• Sun Park, with 10 employees, who was cited for $158,855.

• Pil Chang, with eight employees, who was cited for $37,450.

• Francisco Tecum Son, with four employees, who was cited for $18,000.

• Union Supply Inc., with 15 employees, which was cited for $240,300.

• Pure Cotton Inc., with no employees, was cited for $500.