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California’s New Basic Income Could ‘Empower’ LA Garment Workers

Last week, California became the first state to greenlight a guaranteed income policy, and one worker rights group is welcoming the news.

“Guaranteed income is good policy—it combats poverty and provides more stability to vulnerable communities,” Marissa Nuncio, Garment Worker Center director, told Sourcing Journal Monday. The funding stands to have an outsized impact on the state—and the country’s—most populous county. Los Angeles, home to more than 10 million residents, hosts America’s largest population of garment workers. The workforce is made up of more than 45,000 mostly immigrant women, according to the center’s data.

“As organizers with low-wage immigrant workers, we know that when people’s basic needs are met, they are more empowered to stand up to unjust work conditions and retaliation,” she added. “We also know that we must combat poverty by tackling exploitation and marginalization at its roots.”

According to Nuncio, this objective can be achieved by tackling the issues of wage theft, which has proven a pervasive problem in L.A.’s garment sector. The Garment Worker Protection Act (SB62), which is currently working its way through the state legislature, would expand liability for unfair practices across the supply chain and provide more resources for enforcement, she said.

“And we hope to see guaranteed income expanded to include more of our immigrant community,” she added, “especially undocumented immigrants as they are often the most marginalized.”

Cities and townships across the Golden State will apply for funding and implement their own plans for dissemination, while California’s Department of Social Services will ultimately decide how the money is divided. State lawmakers have tasked local officials with the responsibility of determining the amount of the monthly payments to individuals, the AP reported, though they will likely amount to $500-$1,000.