Paying fair wages and sustaining manufacturing

by Vivian Diep in May 27th, 2022

What’s in fashion? Fair pay and more U.S. manufacturing

Fri May 13

As more companies outsourced garment manufacturing to produce cheap clothes, wages for U.S. garment workers dropped below minimum wage. But recently, New York Senator Gillibrand has introduced the FABRIC Act, a bill that would ensure fairer wages and simultaneously help companies bring the outsourced jobs back to the U.S.

Under current law, the garment industry has been allowed to effectively pay workers well below minimum wage (averaging $6/hour) through the abuse of a pay practice called “piece rate,” which pays workers by the garment rather than by the hour. This pay structure would theoretically motivate workers, but has instead been abused by larger manufacturers who can set low piece rates. That makes it almost impossible for workers to make minimum wage and allows manufacturers to avoid paying for overtime or unproductive time (e.g. food breaks or sick leave).

To offset the increase in production costs — which could force manufacturers to leave the U.S. altogether — the FABRIC Act includes $5 million in grants to train and equip garment manufacturing workers as well as tax credits of up to 30% on expenses related to moving operations back into the country. And with more “insource” products, we will hopefully have a more manageable supply chain.

Some countries, such as Australia and the U.K., have allowed piece rate pay so long as fair wage requirements are met (USD14.37 in Australia and USD11.90 in the U.K.). The U.S. has similar requirements in place so this bill would be a departure, but it is also limited to the garment industry. Piece-rate laws, as is, would still be valid for other industries such as agriculture and automotive repair.

Below The Fold Bytes

A Baby Step In Solving SIDS 

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is what we call mysterious infant deaths (often during sleep) with no specific environmental or medical cause. But researchers have recently discovered low levels of an enzyme likely responsible for waking a baby in response to a danger, for instance, prompting the baby to turn their head and gasp for air. While promising, the research has a long way to go to determine what a normal level for the enzyme is and what to do next. At present, researchers have developed a set of recommendations to prevent SIDS and say it’s still your best bet.

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Paying For Youth — Literally

Since the 1970s, Japan has been worried about their aging population. They now boast the oldest population in the world thanks to the high life expectancies and a declining birth rate. Not only does this situation slow economic growth, it has resulted in ghost towns as the youth move to the big cities for work. One city is making a bold effort to revitalize an aging neighborhood by offering a lump sum of roughly $2,300 to newlyweds under 39 who settle there. Given its relative proximity to Tokyo and scenic landscape, living conditions are certainly not a downgrade.

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Trump’s Executive Order Was Drafted By Meatpackers

To keep meatpacking plants open during the early months of COVID-19 when thousands were being infected, companies such as Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods coordinated to keep plants open at max capacity by drafting the executive order to do so. They did this with help from the political appointees at the USDA, which is supposed to regulate such companies. This resulted in workers being forced to stay on the job despite unsafe conditions, even calling the state’s local health and safety authorities pesky. The five largest meatpacking plants, in total, had 59,000 cases of COVID-19 with at least 269 deaths.

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Catching Greenwashers Red-handed

We’ve griped about the greenwashing that preys on people’s goodwill. But today, we’re celebrating the SEC’s first major enforcement action from their Climate and ESG Task Force. The task force has lodged a complaint against Vale S.A, a publicly traded Brazilian iron ore producer, for falsely stating that they adhered to the strictest safety practices and regulations in response to the collapse of a dam. But the latest collapse leading to 270 deaths and toxic sludge that contaminated a river indicates they essentially lied. Besides the obvious need to prevent such disasters, such enforcement helps ensure investors can make informed decisions and serves to warn future greenwashers.

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🎬 Action of the Week

If you want to see more Made in USA with fair wages and working conditions, visit Green Is the New Black to get a script to use when calling your senator as well as some social media shareables.


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