Just seven months after California’s historic SB62 garment worker protection bill passed and only four since New York State’s proposed Fashion Act was announced, another piece of legislation impacting the fashion industry is coming—and for the first time it’s happening on a federal level. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-D) exclusively tells Vogue that she will introduce the Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change (FABRIC) Act in the Senate on May 12, with dozens of endorsements from activists, manufacturers, and brands throughout the industry already behind it. If written into law, the bill will extend the anti-wage theft principles of SB62 nationwide and offer incentives like tax exemptions and grant programs for brands looking to manufacture in the United States.
While almost every consumer-product industry in the United States has enforced regulation to some degree, fashion has long been the exception, and it’s been the workers who have paid the price. Even within the country, the supply chain is complex, and suppliers often use layers of subcontracted work to skirt labor laws. For decades, brands have contracted work out to manufacturers using a piece-rate payment system where employees are paid per item they make, resulting in as little as $2 per hour for full-time work. The FABRIC Act would extend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, placing liability requirements onto those brands that work with factories paying less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The act also includes a 30% reshoring tax credit to cover some costs for brands seeking to bring manufacturing back to the United States and a $40 million Domestic Garment Manufacturing Support Program administered by the Department of Labor for those looking to update their facilities and improve them for workers.
“There are not many industries where women are at the core of the workforce, except for in the fashion industry,” Senator Gillibrand told Vogue in a phone call about the bill. She also mentioned that the United States garment industry is losing about $30 billion annually because of imports. “To fix this, we need to put a prohibition on predatory payments through the piece rates, but we also need to give these companies the incentives to bring the manufacturing back to the U.S. or make it possible for them to start up here in the first place.”