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Get a pencil and write it down: Without national legislations, there is little hope of cleaning up the California garment industry. Remember it and repeat it often. Few will argue with this conclusion. Not Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. - "it can't go on, this exploitation of the working poor. These people are working and contributing to the wealth of California, and their voice is not being heard. And since we can't seem to get at the heart of the problem in California's garment industry, a more comprehensive national approach must be taken." Not state Labor Commissioner James QUillin - "What we need is recognition at the federal level that the (U.S.) garment industry is a special case. We must develop federal legislation that would require close regulation and hold manufacturers accountable." Not state Sen. Joseph Montoya, D-San Gabriel Valley, the lawmaker who has sponsored the two most successful pieces of legislation affecting the industry since he took office in 1972 - "I would be willing to pursue the idea of federal legislation - it will serve everyone."
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-02-01
XV-"Brown: 'It's wrong for a civilized society...'" - Merle Linda Wolin - Los Angeles Herald Examiner
From the beginning of the conversation, it was clear that Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. knew little about the machinations of the state's $3.5 billion garment industry. But he seemed eager to learn. "What's going on in this industry?" he asked at the beginning of the interview. "Do the laws work to protect the workers? Is everyone making minimum wage? Who is responsibile for the violations?" I told him my story about rampant labor and health code abuses. He seemed slightly incredulous. Could this still be going on in California? And then he appeared upset to hear that a bill recently signed into law would not solve the problem. "Why couldn't my people get manufacturers held jointly liable with contractors for all the violations?" he asked indignantly. Standing in the living room of his sparsely furnished home in Laurel Canyon, Brown reached for the telephone. Within moments, Don Vial, the director of California's Department of Industrial Regulations, and a member of Brown's governing Cabinet, was on the speakerphone. Now it was a three-way conversation.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-30
As far as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley is concerned, the violations in the city's garment industry are nothing to get excited about - a belief his critics charge is part of the problem. "The mayor's office does virtually nothing to enforce the laws 0that apply to the garment industry)," said state Sen Joseph B Montoya, D-San Gabriel Valley, the legislator best known in Sacra-mento for his efforts to legally protect the garment worker. "He showed interest only where there was a media event. Why? There's a lot of money involved, a lot of contributions. You don't want to hamper your political campaign fund, That's what it boils down to." "It's kind of lonely out here," said state Labor Commissioner James Quillin who, as head of California's Concentrated Enforcement Program, tries to curb abuses in the garment industry. "The (city) Fire Department and the (city) Building and Safety Department ought to be out here... but Bradley will talk about his reluctance to take any steps that might be construed as punitive agaist the industry. He'll say it is such an economic factor in the city." Surprisingly, even manufactur-ers complain about the mayor, citing his reluctance to impose requirements on contractors beyond a $21 business tax and registration permit. "I asked Mayor Bradley if there would be something these people (garment contractors) could read in five languages that would explain what their obligations are as employers," said Bernie Brown, the spokesman for California's Coalition of Apparel Industries, the most powerful manufacturers' lobby in the state. "I never heard from him. No one has the answer yet."
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-29
The manufacturers' response to knowing I worked on their garments seemed miled to the way Oscar and Martha Herrera greeted the news that I was a journalist, not a Brazillian garment worker. The first time I entered the shop as a newspaper reporter, one sunny Tuesday afternoon, the Herrera's responded to me cooly but politely. Oscar stood over the mangle, swiftly arranging the blue trousers on the roller before he lowered the steaming top. As I approached, he looked up with a puzzled expression on his face. Some of the other workers that had befriended me when I worked in the shop came forward, like Sergio from Guatemala. He recognized me immediately and smiled. He knew something was up.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-22
VII-"'I"m not Joan of Arc. I'm a garment manufacturer.'" - Merle Linda Wolin - Los Angeles Herald-Examiner
To hear wealthy dress manufacturers Richard Freedman and Lowell Meyer talk, you would think that single-handedly they overcame the recession and every other obstacle in a competitive business, to put their firm on top. Listening to smooth-talking women's sportswear manufacturer Warren Handler talk, you would think that all it took for him to succeed was good design and lots of hard work. And I might have believed them, all of them - had I not been demeaned and exploited as a worker in one of their contractor's unhealthful shops. Or had I not know about the manufacturers' sanctioned edge over everyone else in the Los Angeles germent industry.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-21
Make no mistake about the quality of the operation over at the union-organized Ernst Strauss Inc. The shop, maker of very expensive, fine-quality women's suits and coats, is considered the best in Los Angeles. Ask garment industry leaders, union officals, ask the owners themselves. "The pay is the highest in California - maybe the country," said one owner. "The workers are so loyal you couldn't beat them away. " said another. "It's a union shop," explained someone from the International Ladie's Garment Worker's Union. "A 30-year member. Everything is done right." But "right in the undisputed best shop in town is a relative term. On June 12, a Thursday, I went to work as a sewing machine operator in Ernst Strauss factory. As before, I posed as a poor, illegal brazillian germent worker. I no speak English. Espanol, por favor.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-19