Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less and more under fire for underpaid factories

This isn't overseas. It's here in Los Angeles.

Forever 21 continues to thrive but at what cost?
Courtesy of Forever 21

Next time you’re deciding between a $19.99 dress at Ross or a $12.99 dress at Forever 21, know that factory employees sewed that extra button and went over those extra hours just for $4 an hour.

Reports came out on Nov. 16 from the Los Angeles Times that the Labor Department has been investigating Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx for underpaying factory workers in Southern California.

While these fast fashion retailers were noticeably targeted, Macy’s and Nordstrom also came under scrutiny.

Cosmopolitan pointed out that although “the Labor Department can only penalize companies that directly employ workers, the retailers themselves, including Macy’s and Nordstrom, avoided any repercussions.”

From April to July, 77 factories came under fire for its labor violations, in which “companies cheated workers out of $1.1 million.”

So, what’s going to happen with these retailers popular with consumers? Labor Department officials are asking the companies to cooperate. For one, pay the contractors more so they can pay their employees legal wages.

When the Times reached out to Ross and Forever 21, both companies agreed to take the dilemmas seriously.

“Ross Stores takes labor issues very seriously, and we require our suppliers to uphold our ethical standards,” Connie Wong, a spokeswoman for Ross, stated.

In an email from Forever 21, a spokesperson echoed a similar statement, “Forever 21 takes these issues very seriously, and requires all of its vendors to comply with these laws.”

TJ Maxx has not yet released a statement regarding this matter.

Depending on the task, employees can make $4.50 an hour placing labels on clothes.

Jose Garcia makes about $6 an hour sewing hems in factories supplying to Ross. The 35-year-old earns 22 cents for each blouse sewn. Garcia spends an average of 55 hours a week in downtown Los Angeles.

By the time this article was published, it is uncertain whether these companies are still working with factories underpaying their employees or at least giving their manufacturers a raise.