In June, Los Angeles area garment manufacturers signed an agreement with the US Labor Department to begin policing labor practices. Under the Compliance Alliance, private police hired by manufacturers are to assist government labor investigators by auditing contractors and identifying shops that break laws on minimum wage, overtime pay and child labor.
Over the past five years, garment making in Los Angeles has become an $8 billion annual industry. Over 150,000 workers are employed by manufacturers and contractors in Los Angeles.
Under the three-year old Target Industries Partnership Program (TIP), state and federal authorities combined forces to conduct monthly sweeps to enforce labor laws in the garment and agriculture industries.
During one two-hour sting operation, violations for illegal cash payments and unpaid overtime resulted in $20,000 in fines. Over 90 percent of the 4,000 garment contractors in Los Angles have 50 or fewer employees, and many are non-English speaking. Some employers close up shop after being fined, and then re-open under a new name at a different location.
In 1994, investigators conducted about 500 garment industry audits statewide -- most of them in Los Angeles -- assessing $4.5 million in penalties and collecting $2.6 million in unpaid wages.
"Playing fair in the fields," The Fresno Bee, July 12, 1995. John M. Glionna, "Garment Gumshoes; State, US Agents to Step Up Hunt for Labor Violations in Booming LA Clothing Industry," Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1995.