Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced the introduction of her groundbreaking Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change (FABRIC) Act. Garment workers are a cornerstone of the American economy and, for far too long, have faced unsafe working conditions, wage theft, and piecework pay, which often prioritizes fast fashion over the safety of workers. Supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic have only exacerbated these ongoing issues, which are disproportionately shouldered by women, people of color, and immigrant workers. Gillibrand’s FABRIC Act would protect nearly 100,000 American garment workers and help revitalize the garment industry in the United States by improving working conditions and reforming the piece-rate pay scale. Women are leaders in the cut-and-sew apparel manufacturing industry, making up 61% of workers, and following heavy job losses for women during the pandemic, we need to invest in them and this crucial industry.
The FABRIC Act proposes to address these issues through five central pillars:
- Restructuring pay rates and providing minimum wage as a floor with productivity incentives on top.
- Establishing new liability measures that compel major retailers to become allies in combating workplace violations.
- Introducing recordkeeping and transparency measures.
- Incentivizing reshoring.
- Creating a domestic garment manufacturing grant program aimed at revitalizing the industry.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are original cosponsors of the FABRIC Act.
“It’s time to take bold action at the federal level to change the fabric of the American garment manufacturing industry. The United States was once home to a booming apparel manufacturing industry, and it’s time to reexamine how this industry has evolved over the past 50 years and change how we treat our workers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “From designers to managers to workers, women overwhelmingly play a leading role in this important industry. However, garment workers in the United States are often underpaid, overworked, and put in unsafe conditions. Protecting the garment workforce is a sustainability issue and has direct impacts on environmental sustainability, community development, gender equality and economic prosperity. This legislation would thread the needle of protecting workers’ rights, putting an end to abusive pay rates, and ensuring equitable compensation for garment workers, while also making historic investments in domestic garment manufacturing so we can not only make American, but buy American.”
“The FABRIC Act supports growth, training, and reinvestment in our industry. As a domestic manufacturer, it would create vital programs to expand our unionized workforce as well as innovate using advanced machinery to modernize our prestigious trade,” said Gabrielle Ferrara, COO Ferrara Manufacturing.
“I founded my namesake clothing brand over 22 years ago, yet it was only in 2015 that I hit a “change or shut down” moment after realizing the real extent of the industry’s negative impact. We chose to change and began shifting our manufacturing processes, advocating further for racial equity and justice in the industry, began digging into our supply chain and scrutinizing labor practices that existed. The FABRIC ACT is needed to enforce brands’ accountability for the industry’s past, responsibility for its present, and offers proactive measures for its future. Garment workers are the heartbeat of this industry and need our collective support. If you’re a brand still questioning where you stand, I ask you: without garment workers, would you still even be standing?” said Mara Hoffman, Designer.
“Workers United is proud to endorse the FABRIC Act, which establishes important liability requirements to hold fashion brands and retailers accountable for the labor practices of their US contractors. This provision, and the establishment of a minimum wage floor, will help ensure that jobs in the US garment industry are good jobs with dignity and respect,” said Edgar Romney, Secretary-Treasurer, Workers United-SEIU.
“The FABRIC Act is so exciting to me as a garment worker because at its heart are protections for workers’ hard-earned wages, protections we recently gained in California. To see these protections go nationwide, and have incentives to encourage manufacturing in the US, would be life-changing for so many workers and the industry as a whole,” said Teresa Garcia, member leader of the Garment Worker Center.
“Remake is pleased to endorse the FABRIC Act that assures jobs of dignity for the 95,000 hardworking American garment workers. With a 30% reshoring tax credit and $40MM grant program, the FABRIC Act provides the right incentives to support good manufacturing jobs right here at home. Now’s the time for factories and colleagues from both sides of the aisle to support this timely bill that captures the demand for reshoring to do right by American workers,” said Remake CEO, Ayesha Barenblat.
“The fashion industry is in need of a serious systemic overhaul, and as a brand, it’s our responsibility to help create safe, healthy, and equitable working conditions for the workers throughout our supply chain. We’re energized to see the progress made by landmark legislation like California’s SB62, but there’s much more work to be done. With that, we are proud to support the FABRIC Act and build on these efforts of raising the workplace protection standards at a national level. This bill has the potential to realize ethical working conditions and the wellbeing of garment workers across the U.S., with impacts far beyond,” said Carrie Freiman Parry, Reformation’s Senior Director of Sustainability.
“We support and fully endorse the FABRIC Act and like California’s recent Garment Worker Protection Act, it has the potential to rectify current loopholes within the fashion industry and positively impact garment workers across the country and redeem the meaning of Made in USA,” said Sanjeev Bahl, Founder and CEO of Saitex.
“Senator Gillibrand’s FABRIC Act will reinvigorate the garment industry in the U.S. by strengthening garment workers’ rights and driving wage growth, while promoting equity. It’s time that industry leaders understand the financial and business risks associated with unsafe working conditions and shoddy labor contracts, as well as rapidly-shifting and widespread cultural values. The benefits of regulation that will reform the piece-rate pay scale and champion workplace well-being amount to customer satisfaction. At the NYFWDC, we recognize that regulation and reform will ultimately lead to a more prosperous and sustainable fashion industry by which skilled workers are treated with dignity, worker retention is achieved through improved conditions, and industry ethics are attuned and align with an increasing consumer demand for justice,” said Ibada Wadud, founding member of the New York Fashion Workforce Development Coalition and Governance Board member.
“Custom Collaborative welcomes this bill as an advancement toward fair labor conditions and compensation in the US fashion industry. Since its inception, our organization has trained no/low income and immigrant women with the skills necessary to achieve economic success in sustainable fashion and beyond. As we assisted on this legislation, we requested that the bill include funding for nonprofits to train people. We hope that this legislation will continue to shape the fashion industry as a healthy and collaborative environment,” said Ngozi Okaro, Executive Director & Founder, Custom Collaborative; Founding Member of New York Fashion Workforce Development Coalition.
“New York Embroidery Studio has been manufacturing apparel in the garment center for over 30 years. We are proud to support the FABRIC Act, and the creation of good-paying apparel manufacturing jobs in the US,” said New York Embroidery Studio.
“Pratt Fashion is dedicated to the preservation, support, and transformation of our domestic fashion industry. The FABRIC Act is a critical step towards creating transparency and accountability, while also investing in the next generation of fashion industry leaders.” — Jennifer Minniti, Chairperson of Pratt Fashion & Jane B. Nord Professor of Fashion Design
“The FABRIC Act is so exciting to me as a garment worker because at its heart are protections for workers’ hard-earned wages, protections we recently gained in California. To see these protections go nationwide, and have incentives to encourage manufacturing in the US, would be life-changing for so many workers and the industry as a whole,” said Marissa Nuncio, Director of the Garment Worker Center.
“New Standard Institute is pleased to endorse the FABRIC Act. This bill matches incentives to produce in the US with strong worker protections, which can help ensure that an increase in worker protections doesn’t have the unintended consequences of shrinking the domestic industry. We are thrilled that Senator Gillibrand understands the important role the fashion industry plays and the need to protect domestic workers. The FABRIC Act will be a part of a suite of legislation that needs to pass to address the social and environmental issues facing the fashion industry,” said Maxine Bédat, Director, New Standard Institute.
“Fashion Revolution USA is proud to endorse the FABRIC Act. As the nation’s first federal fashion bill, the FABRIC Act is rooted in improving the lives of thousands of garment workers, increasing supply chain transparency, and holding brands responsible for unethical labor practices. FABRIC’s key provisions include anti-wage theft measures, the creation of a national garment registry, and reinvestment into the domestic garment manufacturing sector. By supporting the FABRIC Act, we ensure that people, human rights, and dignity are central to fostering a more sustainable and transparent future in fashion,” said Nikki Eclarinal, Policy Manager, Fashion Revolution USA.
“The Model Alliance supports the rights of workers from the runway to the factory floor — that’s why we’re proud to endorse Senator Gillibrand’s FABRIC Act. Every worker deserves protection from exploitation and abuse, and lawmakers must act to make that the reality for workers in the fashion industry,” said Sara Ziff, founder and executive director of the Model Alliance,” said the Model Alliance.
“Another Tomorrow was founded to create change in the fashion industry. We manufacture with partnership, respect, and a commitment to living wages across our supply chain. While building the brand we learned about the unjust labor conditions in the garment industry in the United States and are committed to contributing to legislation that will ensure dignified working conditions and living wages alongside the voices from our community. Only regulation and robust accountability mechanisms are going to catalyze meaningful change, which is why we endorse Senator Gillibrand’s FABRIC Act,” said Tara St James, VP of Sustainability at Another Tomorrow.
Since the inception of our brand I have been an advocate for fair wages, community and economic development, equality, and environmental sustainability. We have committed to building a transparent value chain that benefits all dimensions of sustainability, with a focus on strengthening resources within disadvantaged communities. By becoming law, this act would radically transform the Fashion Industry in ways that would positively affect people, the planet, economic prosperity, and culture. In my capacity as an educator, policy and environmental activist, and fashion designer, I am elated to see the evolution of this Act,” said Naika Colas CEO/Founder of Jacques Louis; a conscious clothing brand.
“The FABRIC Act is an important first step requiring better transparency in the notoriously opaque apparel industry and provides key financial incentives for companies to re-shore their overseas manufacturing. Domestic production has economic benefits, but also environmental ones. Producing locally can help brands naturally lower their environmental footprint while also helping grow American jobs. Senza Tempo Fashion was founded with the goal to help revive American manufacturing and the FABRIC Act is a welcome policy to support that endeavor,” said Kristen Fanarakis, Founder, Senza Tempo Fashion.
“Fashion is beautiful yet apparel supply chains are increasingly ugly. I believe a garment is only as beautiful as its origins which is why I support The FABRIC Act which boldly aims to protect garment workers, increase supply chain transparency, while also incentivizing manufacturing domestically,” said Caroline Priebe, Founder/Sustainability Strategist at The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making.
“This Bill is a giant leap toward a new era for American Fashion,” said Gabrielle Clary DC Sustainable Fashion Collective.
“Pratt Fashion is dedicated to the preservation, support, and transformation of our domestic fashion industry. The FABRIC Act is a critical step towards creating transparency and accountability, while also investing in the next generation of fashion industry leaders,” said Jennifer Minniti, Chairperson of Pratt Fashion & Jane B. Nord Professor of Fashion Design.
“Passing the FABRIC bill is instrumental in sustaining our heritage dressmaking industry. We can positively impact our global footprint by using local craftsmen-drapers, pattern makers and seamstresses/seamsters. Manufacturing close to home also enables us to oversee the whole process and ensure all our workers are paid fairly,” said Christine Carlson, Maybelle Founder.
“CSG (Circular Services Group) supports the FABRIC ACT because it will provide much-needed US jobs, support dignified garment worker career development, and create local supply chains that will ultimately enable circularity – including reuse, repair, and overall textile waste reduction,” said Rachel Kibbe, CEO, Circular Services Group.
“The garment industry is rife with exploitation of people and planet and it will take a great deal to right the wrongs and change the status quo. We need to both incentivize fairly and sustainably made products, including supporting companies at their bottom line, as well as keep products made in abhorrent ways out of the marketplace. 2021’s Withhold Release Orders (WRO’s) and the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act are a major step in the right direction, and 2022 can be a year when we focus on having more products made fairly in our own country. This legislation does so many things the right way. It includes many elements of California’s SB 62, which importantly was crafted by American garment workers, and it helps the garment industry rebuild in the right way. It provides the framework necessary to properly regulate the industry as well as the financial resources to enable companies to make real change. We are excited to support this Bill and any future measures that help the garment industry better honor people and planet,” said Rebecca Ballard, Founder and ED, The Fashion Connection, Founder and CEO, Maven Women.
“We are so proud to support the Fabric Act. It reflects Made X Hudson’s founding principles of reenergizing clothing and soft goods manufacturing in the Hudson Valley, and our commitment to ethical labor practices,” said Made X Hudson.
“Much of American manufacturing hasn’t changed since 1938, but with a few small updates we can protect workers while creating more competitive advantage for businesses to reshore their production. The FABRIC Act has identified these updates and laid out a plan to accomplish this improvement. As compliance and sourcing experts, we have seen the positive impact well-run factories have on a community, and believe this bill could not only help underperforming facilities improve, but also equip great factories with much needed updates to be positioned as global leaders and rebuild our industry as we move forward,” said Jessica Kelly, Founder & CEO, THR3EFOLD.
“The people who make our clothes deserve fair pay,” said Nicole Robertson, founder and chief executive officer of Swap Society. “I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand for introducing the FABRIC Act, which will eliminate the exploitative piece-rate pay system and ensure that garment workers are paid a minimum wage.”
“Reversing the flow of manufacturing back to the US and revitalizing domestic production is a vital pathway to a new manufacturing future of increased domestic jobs, global sustainability and survival of our heritage NY garment industry. We are honored to endorse the FABRIC ACT that will make this possible through a multi layered perspective of accountability, automated evolution and support of industry investment towards this future,” said Mi Jong Lee of Emmelle Design.
“We are excited – and honored – to be part of the fight alongside our clients, Senator Gillibrand, Garment Worker Center, and garment workers across the country to put an end to the unlawful and exploitative practices and loopholes which have proliferated in the garment industry. Together we will work to make sure that those who reap the benefits of suppressed wages and sweatshop conditions are held liable for the shameful conditions which they helped to create,” said Dana Hadl, Director of the Employment Rights Project at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, co-sponsor of California’s SB 62.
“Today’s global supply chain disruptions are a good reminder of why we need modern, competitive domestic manufacturing. Right now we’re a long way off. The FABRIC Act is a step in the right direction,” said Alex Crane.
“Sustainable Brooklyn, which works to bridge gaps between the mainstream sustainability movement and targeted communities, including communities of Black diasporan, African, Indigenous and melaninated femmes of the global south, is proud to endorse the FABRIC ACT. This is a major step in the right direction to course correct the fashion industry, a systemically exploitative industry, into a future where livable wages are upheld and protected for the most marginalized laborers in this industry,” said Whitney McGuire, co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn.
“We at GCNYC believe strongly that smart local, state, federal and international policy is an integral and consistently missing component in the ongoing work to create a more just, sustainable, and positively impactful fashion industry. The FABRIC Act is an important step towards holding accountable an industry known for its caustic operations, unfair labor practices, and tragic history of unsafe working conditions. We are heartened by the leadership of Senator Gillibrand in developing meaningful legislation to support our domestic fashion industry, secure a wage floor, and provide an opportunity for redress for marginalized industry employees,” said Michelle Gabriel, Sustainable Fashion Program Director and Researcher, Glasgow Caledonian New York College.
“All workers deserve a living wage, including garment workers whose skills are essential. One lesson that was learned during the pandemic was how local manufacturers and makers still hold a high importance today. The Fabric Act bills has been long overdue to encourage and support American manufacturing,” said Monique Glover, ZYEM LLC.
American garment workers face the second-highest rate of wage theft of any group of workers in the country. At its peak in April of 1973, the U.S. apparel production industry employed 1.4 million people. This number has steadily declined since. As of April 2022, only 93,800 Americans were employed in apparel manufacturing. Today, apparel imports from China to the United States are over 10 times higher than 30 years ago, and between 1995 and 2020, China gained an estimated 1.25 million jobs in apparel and apparel-adjacent manufacturing while the U.S. lost roughly 700,000 jobs. The U.S. garment industry now loses out on approximately $30 billion annually that is instead imported from China. To fix this, the FABRIC Act has dual goals: 1) protecting and improving working conditions for garment workers; and 2) rejuvenating the garment industry in the United States.
Specifically, the FABRIC Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to create a historic new set of labor protections for workers in the garment industry designed to curb many of the abuses inherent to industry bad actors, including:
- A prohibition on predatory payment-by-piece-rate compensation schemes as base pay for workers, which are a traditional means by which bad actors in the garment industry avoid paying a fair wage to their workers. The bill works to ensure manufacturers provide minimum wage as a pay floor, with the option to pay piece rate above and beyond initial wages.
- New liability requirements that hold fashion brands responsible for the labor practices of their manufacturing partners to increase accountability in the garment industry and compel major retailers to become allies in combating workplace violations.
The FABRIC Act has garnered endorsements from the AFL-CIO, UNITE HERE, Workers United, SEIU, RWDSU, National Employment Law Project (NELP), Garment Worker Center, Partners for Dignity and Rights, Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Remake, Fashion Revolution, Fashion Revolution USA, The Model Alliance, Center for Advancement of Garment Making, The Fashion Connection, Skilled Laborers Brigade, Sustainable Brooklyn, Custom Collaborative, The Slow Factory, ICAR, New York Fashion Workforce Development Coalition, Made in NYC, Pratt Center for Community Development, New Standard Institute, the co-lab, Holly Getty, Honor, Kamrin Huban, DC Sustainable Fashion Collective, Circular Services Group, California College of Arts Fashion Design, GCNYC, Pratt Institute, Fashion Design, Fair Trade LA, Mara Hoffman, Reformation, Another Tomorrow, Argent, New York Embroidery Studio, Hickey Freeman, Mi Jong Lee, Maven Women, INDIGENOUS, CantiqLA, Open Studios, Faherty, Thrilling, Swap Society, Ethix Merch, Senza Tempo, ZYEM NYC, Jacques Louis, The Chocolate Cosmos, Johnathan Hayden, Kindom, ThredUp, Maybelle NYC, Nisolo, EcoFashionCorp, Ferrara Manufacturing, SAITEX, Botanical Colors, Made X Hudson, Sew Co., Rite of Passage, Alex Crane, Wing & Weft Gloves, Lizzie Fortunato Jewels, Reid Miller, Tact & Stone, Timberlake Studios, Triarchy, Fibershed, Upcycle It Now, Nana Atelier, Transparentem, Toit Volant, Et Tigre, MINIMALIST, and Everlane.
This legislation has received technical assistance from the Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division and legal experts at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
To read more about the FABRIC Act, please click here.