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Fashion Nova’s Factories Employ Undocumented Immigrants To Make Their Clothes For Illegally Low Wages

Thanks to high street and low-cost brands like Fashion Nova, the days of $200 jeans are over. The coveted e-comm site can turn around a whole collection in as little as “two weeks” thanks to their manufacturers based in Los Angeles —just a short drive away from the company’s HQ. But as it turns out, the federal Labor Department found that many Fashion Nova garments are stitched together by a work force in the United States that is paid illegally low wages.

We’re living in the times of ‘fast fashion’.

In the era of Instagram, when whatever you see on your screen you can instantly purchase with a few taps of your finger, online retailers like Fashion Nova, have perfected the ‘fast fashion’ model.

In order to ‘mass sell’, retailers have to mass produce.

Online retailers lean on celebrities, influencers and countless avid selfie-takers to post about the brand on social media and incite everyone around them to buy. This model is built to satisfy an online client-base, so the retailers mass produce cheap clothes that look expensive to keep up with demand.

We buy clothes, wear them ‘for the Gram’ and never think of them again.

“They need to buy a lot of different styles and probably only wear them a couple times so their Instagram feeds can stay fresh,” Richard Saghian, Fashion Nova’s founder, said in an interview last year. And to enable that habit, Fashion Nova produces super cheap options constantly —but this is where it starts getting ugly.

If you think of it, in order to get ridiculously cheap clothes, the manufacturing process has to be cheap too —so the workers are getting paid illegally low wages.

Los Angeles is packed with factories that produce clothing and pay workers —off the books— as little as possible. Many of the people who work at these places are undocumented, and don’t see the possibility to challenge their bosses.

There are basically ‘sweatshops’ in L.A.

“It has all the advantages of a sweatshop system,” said David Weil, who led the United States Labor Department’s wage and hour division from 2014 to 2017. Every year, the department investigates these issues at sewing factories in Los Angeles. Showing up unannounced to check payroll data, interview employees and question the owners —but it’s easy to keep things hidden.

The factories that make Fashion Nova’s clothes, owe millions to workers.

Research conducted between 2016 and this year, showed that much of Fashion Nova’s clothing production was being made in factories that owed wages to hundreds of workers —$3.8 million to be exact.  The factories are hired by middlemen, to produce garments for fashion brands, and they pay their seamstresses and sewers as little as $2.77 an hour —according to The New York Times.

Factories producing clothes for Fashion Nova have been caught committing these violations repeatedly.

After federal officials found repeated violations at factories making Fashion Nova clothes, they met with company representatives. “We have already had a highly productive and positive meeting with the Department of Labor in which we discussed our ongoing commitment to ensuring that all workers involved with the Fashion Nova brand are appropriately compensated for the work they do,” Erica Meierhans, Fashion Nova’s general counsel, said in a statement to The New York Times. “Any suggestion that Fashion Nova is responsible for underpaying anyone working on our brand is categorically false.”

Fashion Nova’s signature bodycon dresses and curvy jeans are often made by people who work in ramshackle buildings in less than acceptable conditions.

The New York Times just published an investigation and thorough interview with employees of these warehouse factories, like Mercedes Cortes. Mrs. Cortes, sewed Fashion Nova clothes for months at Coco Love, a factory near Fashion Nova’s headquarter offices in Vernon, California. “There were cockroaches. There were rats,” she said. “The conditions weren’t good,” she said to the Times.

She worked everyday of the week—but instead of being paid for her time, she was paid depending on how quickly she worked.

Mercedes’ pay varied depending on how quickly she moved her fingers. Ms. Cortes was paid for each piece of a shirt, she could sew together (approximately 4 cents to sew on each sleeve, 5 cents per side seams, and 8 cents for the seam on a neckline), she was making $270 dollars a week —which is equivalent to $4.66 per hour. Note that the minimum wage in California, as of January 2019, is $12 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.

In 2016, Ms. Cortes left Coco Love and later reached a settlement with the company for $5,000 in back wages.

She continued to work in factories sewing Fashion Nova clothes, noticing the $12 price tags on the tops she had stitched together for cents. “The clothes are very expensive for what they pay us,” Ms. Cortes said.

As consumers, we like to believe that this is what happens in developing countries like Bangladesh or Vietnam where labor isn’t regulated—but it’s true and happening in our very own country.

These factories are still producing clothes for major American retailers. Under federal law, brands cannot be penalized for wage theft in factories if they can credibly claim that they did not know their clothes were made by workers paid illegally low wages. The Labor Department has collected millions in back wages and penalties from Los Angeles garment businesses in recent years, but has not fined a retailer.

Fashion Nova’s labels were the ones most frequently found by federal investigators.

This year, as federal authorities looked into garment factories that pay ridiculously low wages, Fashion Nova’s labels were the ones that kept showing up. In September, three officials of the department met with Fashion Nova’s lawyers to inform them that after 4 years, the brand’s clothes had been found in 50 investigations of factories paying illegally low wages —or failing to pay overtime altogether.

The company took “immediate action” and updated its brand’s agreement with vendors.

Now, if Fashion Nova finds out that a factory has been charged with violating laws “governing the wages and hours of its employees, child labor, forced labor or unsafe working conditions,” the brand will put the middleman who hired that factory on a six-month “probation,” it said in a statement. While Fashion Nova has taken steps to address the Labor Department’s findings, the brand noted that it “is not responsible for how these vendors handle their payrolls.”

In 2013, Mr Saghian, Fashion Nova’s founder, opened an Instagram account and began adding photos of his products.

Gradually, Fashion Nova amassed millions of followers, mentions and endorsements from celebrities and influencers. Cardi B, dropped her first collection with the brand on Instagram, through a video. “I wanted to do something that is like, ‘Wow, what is that? Is that Chanel? Is that YSL? Is that Gucci?’ No,” she said, adding an expletive, “it’s Fashion Nova.”

There were more searches for Fashion Nova last year than for Versace or Gucci, according to Google’s year in search data.

It has 17 million followers on Instagram, and at any given moment there are enough people browsing clothes on its website to fill a basketball arena, Mr. Saghian said.

To keep all these people interested, Fashion Nova produces a filthy amount of styles at a ridiculously fast pace.

More than a thousand new styles are made every week, thanks in part to an army of local suppliers that can respond instantly to the brand’s requests. “If there was a design concept that came to mind Sunday night, on a Monday afternoon I would have a sample,” Mr. Sarghian said.

Any investigation will find problems in these factories. But finding problems is only one important and positive step.

One of the most critical steps we can take is to open these industries up to greater public (and market) scrutiny and accountability. We need to pull back the veil of secrecy these factories have hidden behind for so many years. And we need to create systems where workers and communities can speak in their own voices through their own independent organizations, so that we can hear directly from workers and communities impacted by our consumption.

As consumers, we can help to put pressure on our favorite brands to make sure they are actively supporting initiatives that support workers and their conditions.

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A Federal Court Just Ended Temporary Protected Status For More Than 300,000 Immigrants, Here’s What You Need To Know

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A Federal Court Just Ended Temporary Protected Status For More Than 300,000 Immigrants, Here’s What You Need To Know

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

A federal court just handed a huge ‘victory’ to the Trump administration, which has been eager to restart mass deportations. Despite a global health pandemic, the administration has been pressing forward with plans to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Until now, many of these migrants were safe from deportation thanks to Temporary Protected Status, which shields some immigrants from deportation under humanitarian claims. However, the recent court decision – in San Francisco’s 9th Circuit – gives Trump exactly what he wants right before the elections.

But how will it affect immigrant communities across the country? Here’s everything you need to know about this major decision.

The 9th Circuit Court just ended TPS for more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

A California appeals court on Monday gave the Trump Administration permission to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, clearing the way for officials to force more than 300,000 immigrants out of the country.

The decision affects people from all walks of life, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have U.S.-born children and have been considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week’s ruling from the circuit court comes after a district court (also in California) temporarily halted Trump’s plan to end TPS in late 2018 after a group of lawyers sued, arguing that Trump was motivated by racial discrimination.

“The president’s vile statements about TPS holders made perfectly clear that his administration acted out of racial animus,”Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the ACLU of Southern California, wrote in a statement. “The Constitution does not permit policy to be driven by racism. We will seek further review of the court’s decision.”

But today’s 2-1 decision reversed the district court’s temporary order and allowed the federal government to take away TPS protections while the court case continues.

ICE and DHS has promised to wait several months before taking away TPS status if the agency won in court. As a result, the ACLU told NPR that it expects the protections to start ending no sooner than March, meaning that Joe Biden could reverse the administration’s decision if he wins in November, though the organization plans to fight back in the meantime.

Temporary Protected Status was created to protect people in the U.S. from being sent back to dangerous places – and it’s saved lives.

Credit: Daniel Ortega / Getty Images

The TPS program was first introduced in 1990, and it has protected immigrants from more than 20 countries at various points since then. More than 300,000 people from 10 different nations currently use the program, some of whom have lived and worked in the United States for decades.

Trump has sharply criticized the program, sometimes along racial lines, and in one infamous and widely criticized incident two years ago, the president reportedly referred to the program’s beneficiaries as “people from shithole countries.”

TPS provides protection for short periods of up to 18 months, but the federal government has continuously extended it for the countries mentioned in the lawsuit “based on repeated findings that it remains unsafe to return.” 

As a result, it said, most TPS holders have been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, contributing to their communities and raising their families. Many of the more than 200,000 U.S.-citizen children of TPS holders have never been to the country their parents are from and would have to choose between their families and their homes.

The ruling will have a major impact on migrant families and communities across the U.S.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Immigration advocacy groups are slamming the court’s ruling, noting it will impact hundreds of thousands of TPS holders as well as their families and communities. In a statement, Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the decision will “plunge their lives into further turmoil at a time when we all need greater certainty.” 

As the global pandemic stretches on, immigrants with protected status make up a large portion of the country’s front-line workers. More than 130,000 TPS recipients are essential workers, according to the Center for American Progress. 

“TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the nation,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “And, as the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients are standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans and doing essential work.”

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An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

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An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Janis Christie / Getty Images

On Monday, news broke that an ICE detention center in Georgia was performing mass hysterectomies on migrants without their consent. The allegations came from a nurse at the facility along with numerous detained migrants and left many people shocked.

However, the U.S. has a long history of forcing people – especially people of color – into unwanted sterilization, which is a human rights violation and a form of eugenics.

Of course, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who are regularly referred to as “unwanted” “aliens” by the current president, it’s not so surprising that these practices went unreported for so long. One immigrant in the complaint put it best: “This place is not equipped for humans.”

An ICE nurse and several migrant women allege that a doctor is removing women’s reproductive systems without their consent.

According to the complaint filed Monday by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, a high number of detained immigrant women held at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga., are receiving hysterectomies, as well as other “dangerously unhealthy practices” at the prison amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dawn Wooten, who worked full-time at the detention center until July, when she was demoted to work as needed, said she and other nurses questioned among themselves why one unnamed gynecologist outside the facility was performing so many hysterectomies on detainees referred to him for additional medical treatment. She alleged about one doctor that “everybody he sees has a hysterectomy,” and that he removed the wrong ovary from one young detainee.

“We’ve questioned among ourselves like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his speciality, he’s the uterus collector,” Ms. Wooten said in the complaint.

One detainee, interviewed by Project South, likened the center to “an experimental concentration camp,” adding: “It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

“If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I think I would have gone insane and just break down and probably gone as far as hurting myself,” the woman said. “There are a lot of people here who end up in medical trying to kill themselves because of how crazy it is.”

The same prison has also come under fire for its medical practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Project South said the complaint alleges “jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19.”

It summarizes the disclosures Dawn Wooten made to the DHS’s watchdog, and quotes unidentified detainees extensively. Covid-19 complaints included staff refusing to test symptomatic detainees, failing to isolate suspected cases, and not encouraging social-distancing practices.

For their part, ICE says to take the reports with skepticism.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative released this statement to Law & Crime News in response to the complaint: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

Women in ICE custody have long been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Credit: Getty Stock

Immigrant detention centers have long been accused of subpar medical care. However, the issue has become even worse amid the pandemic. The report filed by Project South describes how migrants are forced to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions and even thrown into solitary if they advocate for basic human rights. But even before the outbreak, immigrant women’s bodies have always been the target of medical malpractice and cruelty.

ICE has allegedly denied treatment to detained women with cancer, brain tumors, and breast cysts, and it has a history of policing their bodies. The Trump administration has been accused of tracking migrant girls’ periods to prevent them from getting abortions, introduced a policy to deny pregnant women visitor visas, and literally ripped mothers apart from their babies during family separation. Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South, said women held at ICDC have said they are not given clean underwear which leads to infections and rashes.

She said detained women, who are mostly Black and brown, are in extremely vulnerable situations in which “they have no control over their bodies.” “It’s a very exploitative situation,” Shahshahani said of the hysterectomies. “There does not seem to be informed consent … they had pretty much no say in what exactly took place.”

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