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Report Details Fines, Back Pay in Crackdown

August 24, 1996|STUART SILVERSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The federal government's continuing campaign against garment industry sweatshops has led to the recovery of $170,000 in back wages for employees at two Los Angeles firms where widespread major labor violations were discovered, according to a report released Friday.

The report, issued quarterly by the Labor Department, also said authorities recovered a total of $699,323 in back wages due 2,486 garment workers nationwide from April through June.

In the study, known as the Garment Enforcement Report, the government said $148,867 in civil fines were imposed against 95 manufacturers for 131 wage and hour violations.

"Far too many garment assembly firms are routinely violating our nation's labor laws," Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich said in a statement. "More importantly, too many garment workers are being exploited."

The biggest share of the violations were discovered in the New York City area, where investigators uncovered 56 violations leading to the recovery of $310,347 in back wages for 1,134 employees.

But California, whose garment-manufacturing industry is concentrated in the Southland, was close behind. In the state, 49 violations were discovered, leading to $67,771 in recovered back wages for 722 employees, along with $1,000 in fines.

Moreover, two of the three biggest recoveries of back wages nationwide this spring came at companies in Los Angeles. One was Hardstyle International, a sewing contractor on East 61st Street found to have violated minimum wage and overtime regulations, causing more than 100 workers to be underpaid by a total of nearly $90,000.

Authorities said the back wages are being paid primarily by BeBop Clothing, a women's sportswear maker that has been one of Hardstyle's main clients. Marcus Sphatt, BeBop's president, said his company was not aware of the problems at Hardstyle before they were discovered by authorities. Since then, Sphatt said, BeBop has since begun to monitor working conditions at the contractor.

A spokeswoman for Hardstyle denied any wrongdoing.

In a separate case, as previously reported, investigators said they recovered $80,000 in back wages for 72 workers at Chums Casuals of South Los Angeles, a knitwear maker and marketer. The company has denied wrongdoing but said it agreed to make the payments to avoid a protracted fight with authorities.

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