UCLA Labor Center

Dirty Threads, Dangerous Factories: Health and Safety in Los Angeles’ Fashion Industry

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2016 / Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Ed.D, Marissa Nuncio, Zacil Pech, Mar Martinez

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Los Angeles houses the largest cut and sew apparel base in the U.S. and is the center of the country’s garment manufacturing industry. While a number of recent studies have focused on the wage and hour labor experiences of California’s garment workers, there has been an absence of research investigating the health and safety conditions of this workforce in Los Angeles. A new report, Dirty Threads, Dangerous Factories: Health and Safety in Los Angeles’ Fashion Industry is a direct response to the concerns expressed by garment workers and worker advocates and provides insights into the health, safety and environmental conditions of this sector.

Among other findings, the study finds:

  • 72% of respondents stated that their workplaces were brimming with dust;
  • 60% reported that excessive heat and dust accumulation was due to poor ventilation that rendered it difficult to work, and even to breathe;
  • 42% reported that exits and doors in their shops were regularly blocked;
  • 47% observed that workplace bathrooms were soiled and unmaintained;
  • 42% of the garment workers surveyed had seen rats and mice in the factories where they sew;

Report authors recommend new citywide standards to fill gaps in worker protections and call for retailers to be held responsible not only for wage theft and wage hour violations but also for unhealthy and unsafe workplace violations. The report was based upon 307 surveys with garment workers in 2015. Every worker surveyed was employed in a Los Angeles-based apparel manufacturing shop at the time of inquiry.

This report was written in collaboration with the Garment Worker Center (GWC) and UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health (UCLA LOSH).

Related Links:

Univision – Ratas, calor y polvo, así son las condiciones de trabajo en los talleres textiles de Los Ángeles

Univision – Fábricas de ropa en Los Ángeles serían peligrosas para trabajar

KABC – Dirty Threads, Dangerous Factories

LA West Media – Report Says L.A. Garment Industry is “Dirty, Dangerous, Unhealthy” for Workers

Hoy Los Angeles – La “moda” los está enfermando y les está quitando la vista

LAist – L.A.’s Garment Workers Face Horrific Workplace Conditions, According To New Report

LA Weekly – L.A. Fashion District a Fire Trap for Garment Workers, Study Finds

Hoy Los Angeles – Empleadas de la costura realizan malabares para el cuidado de sus hijos

UCLA Labor Center – Hanging by a Thread! Los Angeles Garment Workers’ Struggle to Access Quality Care for their Children