Fierce

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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Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

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Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

One of the stranger things to happen during the Trump presidency was the unlikely alliance between Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The former frequently spoke disparaging of Mexicans and pursued cruel and inhumane immigration policies that directly targeted the constituents of the latter. Yet AMLO was a major supporter of Trump’s most severe immigration policies and, in fact, helped bring them to fruition.

Now, with a new president in the White House, AMLO is being asked again to recalibrate his approach to immigration but having once been a major ally of Trump, how will he work alongside a President Biden?

Presidents Biden and AMLO host a virtual meeting to discuss a wide range of topics.

President Biden is hoping that Mexico’s President AMLO can help him avert another crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, given AMLO’s close alliance with Trump and support of his harsh immigration policies, Biden may face an uphill battle.

But as the administration faces an uptick in migrants attempting to cross into the U.S., Biden is hoping that AMLO can become a partner in preventing another cycle of out-of-control migration from Central America. The Mexican president appeared open to collaboration, issuing a joint statement committing to address climate change, the pandemic and migration north.

Their first head to head meeting comes after a rocky start for the two leaders. Mexico’s President was one of the last leaders in the world to congratulate Biden on his election victory, with many saying AMLO fears a Biden administration as potentially more interested in pressuring Mexico on its own domestic matters.

President AMLO was a key player in Trump’s harsh and inhumane immigration tactics.

Despite his racist rhetoric directly targeting Mexicans and his cruel and hardline immigration policies that largely shifted the pressure to Mexico, AMLO largely accepted Trump’s worst policies with little resistance.

As migrant caravans formed in Central America and attempted to make their way to the U.S. passing through Mexico, AMLO unleashed his newly formed Guardia Nacional to stop them in their tracks. His agents arrested and deported thousands of migrants back to their home countries, often using tear gas and other extreme tactics to do so.

And President AMLO said nothing as Trump implemented the “Remain in Mexico” policy which forced thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to await their claims on the Mexican side of the border, amid a global health pandemic, shifting the burden to Mexican officials.

Biden looks to continue many of Trump’s policies.

Although Biden campaigned against Trump’s harsh immigration policies, the president wants many of the same things from AMLO that Trump asked for: help in keeping Central American migrants from immediately surging north toward the United States through Mexico. And although Biden declared he would break sharply with Trump on immigration, he’s only abandoned some of his predecessors policies.

The Biden administration has formed a task force to unite parents separated from their children Trump’s family separations policy. He’s also begun welcoming back a limited number of asylum seekers who were exposed to violence and kidnappings in dangerous areas of Mexico under a Trump-era program. But the Biden administration has kept in place a separate Trump policy that empowers agents to rapidly expel new arrivals at the border to Mexican authorities as Biden hopes to avoid a crisis that challenged his predecessors.

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It’s Like “A War Zone” At The Border Wall As Injured Migrants Are Being Sent Back Without Medical Treatment

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It’s Like “A War Zone” At The Border Wall As Injured Migrants Are Being Sent Back Without Medical Treatment

For years we’ve heard of horrific stories from the U.S.-Mexico border, and things only seemed to get worse under the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane policies.

Now, with new segments of border wall finished – including 15-feet-tall segments with barbed wire – many people who attempt to cross the border wall are falling victim to severe injuries as they fall to the ground or are torn up by razor wire. Although many are falling into the U.S. side of the border, where they should be receiving medical care once apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol, many are being immediately returned to Mexico.

U.S. Border Patrol is returning severely injured migrants to Mexico without medical care.

Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful wall,” which has torn apart communities along the border region and done nothing to curb migrants and refugees from attempting to reach the U.S., is leading to crippling injuries to people attempting to cross the border amid worsening situations in their home countries.

According to one Texas pastor, Rosalio Sosa, who runs a network of migrant shelters known as Red de Albergues Para Migrantes (RAM), told Dallas News a shelter in Palomas gets about seven injured migrants per week and the situation there looks like that of a “war zone,” with the number of injured piling up.

“This has become a war zone, with war injuries and no resources,” he said. “But governments need to know that deserts, rivers, walls are no match for hunger.”

According to Sosa, Border Patrol routinely sends migrants to Palomas with a range of injuries from minor to serious including those who have fallen off the Border Wall. 

“They just pick them up and send them over here. No wheelchair, nothing. Not even a Tylenol,” Sosa said.  The shelter works to get the men medical care in Mexico.

Many migrants confirm what the pastor is alleging, saying they’re being dumped like garbage.

Many of those who have attempted to enter the U.S. are fleeing political unrest and economic uncertainty amid the Covid-19 pandemic. They allege that they are being “dumped” back in “Mexico like garbage” without any help or medical aide from Border Patrol.

Pedro Gomez, who attempted to flee Guatemala in January, said his ankles were broken after falling from the wall and he had to crawl to the US border agent’s vehicle.

“I couldn’t even get up, so I crawled inside the migra [US Border patrol] vehicle”, Mr. Gomez said, adding: “they dumped us in Mexico like garbage, a piece of trash. They said ‘stand up, stand up.’ I don’t know where I found the strength.”

For their part, the Border Patrol denies any allegations of mistreatment.

The U.S. Border Patrol has routinely denied any wrongdoing. In fact, in response to multiple allegations from the pastor and several migrants who claim mistreatment, the agency released a statement rejecting the claims. It said the agents regularly encountered injured migrants and administered medical aid to those hurt.

“We routinely encounter injured people on the border, most of which are individuals that have entered the country illegally. When it is apparent that someone is hurt we will administer first aid and request assistance as needed,” El Paso sector border patrol chief, Gloria Chavez, said in the statement.

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