JUSTICE

With Legislative Action

 

 

Since 2015, we’ve made it our priority to reduce the harm we cause on the planet. We believe that we can make beautiful, long-lasting clothes in ways that use less water, create less waste, don't deplete natural resources, and decrease chemical use, all while advocating for the well-being of the individuals within our supply chain. Many companies are doing this work and have been doing this work, but we need many more companies to commit in order to affect change. And we believe legislative pressure on brands that aren’t prioritizing the planet, their workers, or communities most affected by climate change is needed to enforce industry-wide change.

 

“Legislative change” may sound daunting so let’s explore the process beginning with New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (also known as the “Fashion Act”). The Fashion Act, which was recently introduced, is meant to make the biggest brands in fashion prioritize sustainability, increase transparency and provide a way to hold them accountable when they’re not meeting standards.

 

The actual bill was introduced this past October by New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles, and for it to pass, it must make its way through both state Senate and state Assembly committees, where it’s reviewed, debated, amended and heavily lobbied both for and against (and it should be noted that this is often where good bills go bad). Once it makes it through the committees, the bill must be voted upon by both the Senate and the Assembly. Then, if it garners majority support from both chambers, it arrives on the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. In actual weeks and months, this means a vote on this bill in particular should happen by late spring, but we’re currently in the committee stage. In other words, this is the perfect time to take action and support the legislation. This Tuesday, April 26th we will travel to Albany to attend The Fashion Act Rally, we hope you can join us.

 

Asking brands to do better is common, legislation that actually holds brands financially accountable is far less so. The bill would use fines to enforce the measures, and those fines would be placed into a community fund earmarked for environmental justice projects around the state.

 

The Fashion Act is not the first of its kind, and we know it will not be the last. More bills like this are needed, and, positively, more are getting drafted — and passed.

 

California, for instance, recently passed the Garment Workers Protection Act (SB 62), which made it the first state to require hourly wages for all garment workers by banning what’s called “piecework” — an exploitative system in which people are paid based on the number of garments they make, not the time they work — and penalizing manufacturers and brands for wage theft and illegal pay practices.

 

JUSTICE

With Legislative Action

Since 2015, we’ve made it our priority to reduce the harm we cause on the planet. We believe that we can make beautiful, long-lasting clothes in ways that use less water, create less waste, don't deplete natural resources, and decrease chemical use, all while advocating for the well-being of the individuals within our supply chain. Many companies are doing this work and have been doing this work, but we need many more companies to commit in order to affect change. And we believe legislative pressure on brands that aren’t prioritizing the planet, their workers, or communities most affected by climate change is needed to enforce industry-wide change.

 

“Legislative change” may sound daunting so let’s explore the process beginning with New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (also known as the “Fashion Act”). The Fashion Act, which was recently introduced, is meant to make the biggest brands in fashion prioritize sustainability, increase transparency and provide a way to hold them accountable when they’re not meeting standards.

 

The actual bill was introduced this past October by New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles, and for it to pass, it must make its way through both state Senate and state Assembly committees, where it’s reviewed, debated, amended and heavily lobbied both for and against (and it should be noted that this is often where good bills go bad). Once it makes it through the committees, the bill must be voted upon by both the Senate and the Assembly. Then, if it garners majority support from both chambers, it arrives on the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. In actual weeks and months, this means a vote on this bill in particular should happen by late spring, but we’re currently in the committee stage. In other words, this is the perfect time to take action and support the legislation. This Tuesday, April 26th we will travel to Albany to attend The Fashion Act Rally, we hope you can join us.

 

Asking brands to do better is common, legislation that actually holds brands financially accountable is far less so. The bill would use fines to enforce the measures, and those fines would be placed into a community fund earmarked for environmental justice projects around the state.

 

The Fashion Act is not the first of its kind, and we know it will not be the last. More bills like this are needed, and, positively, more are getting drafted — and passed.

 

California, for instance, recently passed the Garment Workers Protection Act (SB 62), which made it the first state to require hourly wages for all garment workers by banning what’s called “piecework” — an exploitative system in which people are paid based on the number of garments they make, not the time they work — and penalizing manufacturers and brands for wage theft and illegal pay practices.

 

Photo Credit: Corey Young

The Fashion Workers Act, which was also recently introduced in New York, would regulate management agencies and provide labor protection for models, hair and makeup artists, stylists, influencers, and other folks working behind the scenes, ensuring a timely pay structure, requiring written contracts and eliminating many long-standing predatory practices.

 

And finally, and perhaps most substantially, the Garment Workers Fairness Act of 2022, proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, would amend a 1938 — yes, 1938 — piece of legislation called the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and could have a massive impact on garment worker protections. If passed, the bill would prohibit piecework compensation on a national level, create new liability requirements to hold brands responsible for bad labor practices and establish new record-keeping requirements through the Department of Labor to assist in the enforcement of the act. Additionally, the bill would create a nationwide registry to help ensure that these standards are being upheld across the country.

 

All of this is to say that we’re past the point of debating whether the fashion industry causes harm when operating unregulated. It absolutely does — to both its workers and the environment. But recognition is hollow without action, and holding brands accountable, and creating ways to hold them accountable, is absolutely critical to realizing change. This is why legislation must address both sides of the problem in order to affect significant and measurable reductions of harm.

 

So that means that how bills are implemented is just as critical. We can’t allow for these bills to get drafted and then forgotten about, and furthermore, we have to ensure that reparations and equitable benefits are not merely a priority when drafting them, but central to their text and implementation. And if we’re talking equity and reparations, it is essential that future legislation is focused on the environmental impact that the fashion industry contributes to which disproportionately affects BIPOC communities and lower socioeconomic communities.

 

Without the centering of Black and brown leadership, no bill can adequately address the harms the industry has caused. In other words, using fines to fund environmental justice projects is a needed step to offset some of the damage — but without social, racial and economic justice projects as well, it is only addressing part of the greater sum.

 

We need legislation to hold companies accountable and it is critical that leadership forming this legislation is racially representative and equitable. The more we can hold companies accountable, the more we can foster conditions that promote equity, inclusion, opportunity and reparative justice — both for the people and the planet.

 

 

Photo Credit: Corey Young

The Fashion Workers Act, which was also recently introduced in New York, would regulate management agencies and provide labor protection for models, hair and makeup artists, stylists, influencers, and other folks working behind the scenes, ensuring a timely pay structure, requiring written contracts and eliminating many long-standing predatory practices.

 

And finally, and perhaps most substantially, the Garment Workers Fairness Act of 2022, proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, would amend a 1938 — yes, 1938 — piece of legislation called the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and could have a massive impact on garment worker protections. If passed, the bill would prohibit piecework compensation on a national level, create new liability requirements to hold brands responsible for bad labor practices and establish new record-keeping requirements through the Department of Labor to assist in the enforcement of the act. Additionally, the bill would create a nationwide registry to help ensure that these standards are being upheld across the country.

 

All of this is to say that we’re past the point of debating whether the fashion industry causes harm when operating unregulated. It absolutely does — to both its workers and the environment. But recognition is hollow without action, and holding brands accountable, and creating ways to hold them accountable, is absolutely critical to realizing change. This is why legislation must address both sides of the problem in order to affect significant and measurable reductions of harm.

 

So that means that how bills are implemented is just as critical. We can’t allow for these bills to get drafted and then forgotten about, and furthermore, we have to ensure that reparations and equitable benefits are not merely a priority when drafting them, but central to their text and implementation. And if we’re talking equity and reparations, it is essential that future legislation is focused on the environmental impact that the fashion industry contributes to which disproportionately affects BIPOC communities and lower socioeconomic communities.

 

Without the centering of Black and brown leadership, no bill can adequately address the harms the industry has caused. In other words, using fines to fund environmental justice projects is a needed step to offset some of the damage — but without social, racial and economic justice projects as well, it is only addressing part of the greater sum.

 

We need legislation to hold companies accountable and it is critical that leadership forming this legislation is racially representative and equitable. The more we can hold companies accountable, the more we can foster conditions that promote equity, inclusion, opportunity and reparative justice — both for the people and the planet.