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California 1st US state to require hourly wages for garment workers

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Taking historic and decisive action to help keep workers safe on the job and combat unfair pay practices, California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a package of 18 worker protection bills, including nation-leading legislation that will end decades-old, unfair pay practices and requires garment manufacturers to pay workers an hourly wage.

Among the new worker protection bills is Senate Bill (SB) 62 which creates new policies that will end exploitative piece-rate compensation for garment industry workers, while SB 639 prohibits paying workers with disabilities less than the state’s minimum wage. SB 321 directs Cal/OSHA to create an advisory committee to recommend policies to protect domestic workers, provide health and safety guidance.

SB 62 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) ends the industry’s practice of piece-rate compensation, which has been exploited to pay workers below-minimum wages. The legislation also expands fashion brands’ liability for unpaid wages, including wage theft by contractors.

“California is holding corporations accountable and recognizing the dignity and humanity of our workers, who have helped build the fifth-largest economy in the world,” said Governor Newsom. “These measures protect marginalized low-wage workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants, ensuring they are paid what they are due and improving workplace conditions. We are committed to having their backs as we work to build a stronger, more inclusive economy.”

Governor Newsom also signed SB 321, under which Cal/OSHA will create an advisory committee to recommend state policies to protect domestic workers and to provide health and safety guidance to educate employers and employees in the industry. SB 639 prohibits employers from paying workers with disabilities less than the California minimum wage by phasing out certificate programs that permit subminimum wages for these employees.

Holding employers accountable, AB 1003 makes the intentional theft of wages, benefits or compensation in an amount greater than $950 for one employee or more than $2,350 for two or more employees in a consecutive 12-month period punishable as grand theft, which prosecutors could charge as a misdemeanor or felony.

Governor Newsom also signed AB 73, legislation helping to protect farmworkers from wildfire smoke by including agricultural workers in the definition of essential workers that can access the state’s personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpile and specifying that wildfire smoke events are among the health emergencies that require the state to mobilize distribution of PPE. It also requires employers to provide in-language wildfire smoke training.

The signing of 18 worker protection bills follows the Governor’s signing of AB 701 into law last week, establishing new transparency measures for warehousing companies to disclose production quota descriptions to their workers and prohibiting the use of algorithms that disrupt rest periods, bathroom breaks, or compliance with health and safety laws.

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