In comments from last week’s entry on the license required to manufacture apparel in California, Lisa left a link to a similar license required of NY state residents. I wonder how many people there know they need it? The license also costs a lot less, $200 as compared to $750 for California.
The NY state site seems friendlier with a few tips for retailers and manufacturers on how to identify a sweatshop. According to some of the guidelines, if you were searching for a contractor, you wouldn’t be out of line in requesting what most would consider to be proprietary information -specifically on wages. Consider:
Wage payments: A manual worker must be paid weekly, and not later than seven calendar days after the end of the week in which the wages are earned. With each wage payment, an employee must be given a written statement showing wages earned, deductions, hours worked and the pay rate. If the labor performed is piecework, the wage statement must show the number of pieces completed and hours worked. If the time needed to complete work at a piece rate drops the wages below the hourly minimum, the contractor must pay the minimum wage.
As with California, one would be wise to secure a New York license due to possible penalties. For example, if you don’t have a license, you are legally considered a sweatshop regardless of your workplace practices no matter how exemplary. According to the statute, your products could be tagged as “hot goods”.
“Hot Goods” law: New York State enacted 1996 legislation that prohibits the sale or distribution of clothing produced in sweatshops. In addition, authorities can stop the sale and/or distribution of apparel produced in any shop that cheats workers of their wages or pays less than the minimum wage. Garments produced without proper payment of wages may be tagged as “unlawfully manufactured” by Task Force investigators.
While not as onerous as the California regulations in requiring you to verify that a contractor is in compliance, NY state expects you to “tell contractors that you expect them to comply with state and federal regulations as part of their contract with you”. Unfortunately, it also appears that a contractor is not required to volunteer the information that some of your work could be subcontracted to other parties. As such, you’re advised to ask and find out who the subcontractors are. In many cases, contractors won’t want to provide that information. If it were me, I wouldn’t hire anyone who couldn’t follow through.
Also unlike the California law, you don’t have to pass a test to get a license; the process is streamlined. First one obviously fills out an application (pdf). The requirements are basic. You need to have official documentation of your business entity (articles of incorporation etc), a photographic proof of identity (driver’s license etc) and lastly, have proof of Worker’s Compensation and Disability Insurance coverage. The initial registration is $200. Annual renewals -due January 15th- are $150.
An additional benefit of licensing are databases. In other words, the state keeps a database of registered garment manufacturers and sewing contractors; or rather all kinds of sewing industry related contractors. You can use the database in two ways. One, you can verify if a contractor has a license. Two, you can use if for sourcing purposes. Unlike the CA database site that is a simple listing of everyone having a license, you have to use the search feature for NY meaning you don’t have a long list of companies you can scroll through at will. So, if you need to source via the search feature, use minimal search terms. As in, under “establishment name” put the letter A and ignore all other fields. That’ll return nearly a thousand results to pick from.