Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Will Introduce the First Federal Fashion Bill; the FABRIC Act Seeks to End Wage Theft

Gillibrand went on to say that providing resources for start-up costs is a crucial piece of growing domestic manufacturing in fashion. “It’s important that we invest strongly in workforce development. We need to get the next generation of fashion industry leaders trained to do this work effectively.”

Ayesha Barenblat, the founder and CEO of the fashion advocacy group Remake, who helped draft the bill, explained that creating and updating garment jobs in the United States is more critical than ever due to the fractured global supply chain. “The supply chain changes since the pandemic have made business difficult for many brands, and for the first time, we are seeing interest in nearshoring products,” Barenblat said. She brought up the example of mask and PPE supplies during the early parts of 2020. The United States had to rely on imports in an emergency when they could have been made domestically if the infrastructure allowed for it. She went on to say that the problem is two-fold since many of the factories in the United States are severely behind from a technological standpoint. “When you go to Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and other places around the world, you see that the industry has moved on,” she explained. “The grant could allow for necessary updates that will bring in a larger workforce.”

Both Gillibrand and advocates supporting the bill say that bipartisan support is likely. “Several of my Republican colleagues are working on bills around imports from China, and the FABRIC Act would support those efforts,” Gillibrand explained. Barenblat echoed that sentiment, mentioning that workforce development and revitalization is of interest across the country, not just in New York and California. It’s something she is confident representatives across the board can get behind .

Garment workers in California who fought for the passage of SB62 are also offering their support for a federal extension. “The FABRIC Act is necessary because it will advance the wellbeing of garment workers and their families,” Cris Lopez, a garment worker and member of the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles, said via email. “The FABRIC Act not only offers workers protections for our wages but also provides investment in the industry. This promises more jobs and better wages, which ultimately supports those most in need—our children, the elderly—and ensures better education, health, and housing opportunities.”

Senator Gillibrand will hold a press conference on May 13 introducing the bill to the press at the Ferrera Manufacturing in New York City’s garment district. “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,” COO Gabrielle Ferrera told Vogue about the business’s support for the bill. Workers in the Ferrera Manufacturing are currently unionized through Worker’s United, another endorser of the bill. Other industry endorsers include The Model Alliance, Fashion Revolution, Center for the Advancement of Garment Making, Fashion Connection, Skilled Laborers Brigade, Sustainable Brooklyn, Custom Collaborative, The Slow Factory, New Standard Institute, and the California College of the Arts fashion design program .