The Los Angeles garment industry is a dirty, dangerous and unhealthy place for workers, according to a new report published today by the UCLA Labor Center.
The “Dirty Threads, Dangerous Factories: Health and Safety in Los Angeles’ Fashion Industry” report — produced in collaboration with the Garment Worker Center and UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program — many of Los Angeles’ garment factories are dusty, hot, poorly ventilated, have
blocked exits and workers often suffer health problems as a result.
The report recommends new standards to help protect the city’s garment
workers, including putting an end to the piece-rate system that many factories
use to motivate workers by paying them per unit produced.
The piece-rate system “is the reason many of the workers I’ve met have
incurred injuries and also wage hour violations,” said Zacil Pech, report co-
author and health and safety organizer at the Garment Worker Center.
The report was based on 307 surveys with garment workers and several
focus group discussions in 2015.
“On average, I would work for about 11-12 hours sitting down with my
sight heavily focused on the jeans. The chairs we used for work were your
typical fold up metal ones and because of the way the jean pockets were
stitched on, we would sit pretty crooked to produce clothes faster. I’m 100
percent certain this is why my body is messed up,” said Reynaldo Leal, a
garment employee who has filed a workers compensation case.
Among the report’s findings are:
— 72 percent of respondents stated that their workplaces were brimming
— 60 percent reported that excessive heat and dust accumulation was due
to poor ventilation that rendered it difficult to work, and even to breathe;
— 42 percent reported that exits and doors in their shops were
— 47 percent observed that workplace bathrooms were soiled and
— 42 percent of the garment workers surveyed had seen rats and mice in
the factories where they sew.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health did not respond to a
request to comment.
Capt. David Curry, a public information officer with the Los Angeles
Fire Department, said he could not immediately comment on if the garment
industry has a high level of violations for blocked exits and doors.
“We get inside the businesses on a regular basis. If we find these
conditions we immediately ask them to stop. And it’s not like we give them a
notice to stop, they must immediately cease and desist,” Curry said. “And if
they don’t it could lead to criminal charges.”