Wholesale and retail trade Workplace exposures

Los Angeles garment industry ‘deeply unsafe and unhealthy’: report

garment worker

Photo: kzenon/iStockphoto

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles garment manufacturing industry – the nation’s largest cut-and-sew apparel base – is “plagued by workplace violations and marked by a lack of worker protections,” according to a new report released by the Garment Worker Center, the UCLA Labor Center and UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health.

In 2015, researchers surveyed 307 workers in Los Angeles’ garment industry. They found that:

  • 82 percent of garment workers said they never received any health or safety training.
  • 72 percent said their workplaces were excessively dusty.
  • 60 percent said poor ventilation led to excessive heat and dust accumulation that often made working and breathing difficult.
  • 49 percent said no first aid kits were available onsite.
  • 47 percent said restrooms were soiled and not maintained.
  • 42 percent said exits and doors were regularly blocked.
  • 42 percent said they had seen rats and mice in the factories.
  • 33 percent reported they were not allowed to take a break in the course of their workday.
  • 26 percent witnessed or experienced verbal or physical abuse.

“Our findings indicate that the conditions in the city’s garment workplaces are deeply unsafe and unhealthy for many of those who make what is stocked at popular clothing shops and department stores,” the researchers wrote in the report, Dirty Threads, Dangerous Factories: Health and Safety in Los Angeles’ Fashion Industry. They recommend that retailers and clothing brands be held responsible for the safety and health violations committed by the subcontractors producing their garments. Other recommendations include:

  • Implementing and supporting state heat standards for indoor workers
  • Ending the “piece rate system” that prompts workers to prioritize speed over safety
  • Encouraging collaborative efforts between city officials, worker centers and the Office of Wage Standards

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