The Minimum Wage of $15: A Case Study

 

Industrial sewing machine used in manufacturingThe Minimum Wage Debate

The CT State Legislature finally passed a $15/hour wage after a contentious debate as reported in this article by and of the CT Mirror. The debate was contentious, of course, because of the sharp divide between Republicans who put the concerns of business owners at the top of their agendas and majority Democrats who favor the cause of workers. This debate is essentially about what constitutes a “fair Wage” in CT.

A Case Study

I have closely followed this process because of my commitment to basing the pay of the contractors who work with me at a minimum of $15/hr. I have made this commitment because my business, United Sewing and Design, is a social enterprise which focuses on workers first in addition to customers. However, like any business owner, I have to balance the needs of my workers against the opportunities to earn income. l won’t do anyone any good if I don’t stay in business. For example: as a manufacturer, the work we do is often for resale. Therefore, simply put, there is a limit to what our customers can afford to pay us. Often, our customers allow the retail market in which they compete to determine their price and thus, the amount they can afford to pay for manufacturing. This is not anything new.

So far, in order to reach and sustain my pledge to pay a $15 an hour wage, I have had to turn down work from several customers because the retail price of the item being discussed was not high enough. This hasn’t negatively affected our bottom line up to this point. Additionally, I have begun to actively seek out work that sells at a higher retail price and am investigating manufacturing fields where retail price is not a factor. These haven’t been difficult decisions, but I’m making them during the formative stages of business development while I am still scaling up.

Many business leaders are not happy about the gradual increase to a $15 wage. They have legitimate concerns, which I share. But, I feel that the $15/hr wage which approaches a fair wage, is a necessary start to strengthening our entire state economy.

To frame this debate and the action by our legislature, pick up this book by Zeynep Ton, read this about what counts as the “middle class” in CT according to the Census Bureau, and this about what supposedly is a “living wage” in Hartford County. Hint: it will take until fall of 2021 to reach a so called “living wage.” Also, $15 an hour will in no way approach a middle class income in CT.

 

 

 

Why Successful Apparel Manufacturers Should Create “Good Jobs”

The Good Jobs Strategy by Zeynep TonA few years ago, I wrote a blog post on the concepts in Zeynep Ton’s insightful book, “The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits.” Here’s an updated version with links to more meaty info.

Frequently, the expenses associated with hiring in the United States (a fair wage, predictable hours, a respectful workplace) are given as reasons not to attempt apparel manufacturing in the U.S. How can we change this mentality?

Read, internalize, then apply “The Good Jobs Strategy.” Ton’s research and conclusions are sound.

In “The Good Jobs Strategy”, Ton details methods for becoming a company that uses a “virtuous” cycle instead of a “vicious” cycle as the heart of a business. As a graduate of the Sloan School of Management, and an adjunct associate professor in the Operations Management group at MIT Sloan School of Management, Ton researched companies with successful methods honed to perfection such as Trader Joe’s, and Costco.

She breaks down the virtuous strategy into four “operational choices,” proving that these “allow (industries) to deliver value to employees, customers and investors all at the same time.” Although her book primarily uses retail businesses as examples, these methods could easily be adapted to manufacturing. They are:

Read More!

United Sewing and Design: Report on Employment and Environmental Impact 2016-2017

Tote bags with phone pockets and zippered pouches handcrafted for White Horse Style from reclaimed vinyl banners.
Tote bags with phone pockets and zippered pouches handcrafted for White Horse Style from reclaimed vinyl banners.

As part of their compact with the communities they serve, social enterprises publish a report to document their impact in the areas they focus on. As a social enterprise, the two areas that United Sewing and Design focuses on are creating work opportunities for marginalized individuals facing barriers to achieving well paid employment and manufacturing products with materials removed from the waste stream for our line “White Horse Style.” (For a portfolio of White Horse Style products visit this page.) Currently, United Sewing and Design works with independent contractors to manufacture products for individual, corporate and non-profit clients. For a profile on Green Banana Paper Company, one of our clients whose company manufactures accessories from recycled banana fiber, click here. For more info, be sure to check out the helpful links at the bottom.

Find out more!

Hiring a Sewing Contractor? Ten Things to Do to Get the Best Results

ake time to prepare for your meeting with a sewing contractor by doing these 10 tasks.
Take time to prepare for your meeting with a sewing contractor by doing these 10 tasks. Photo by alejandro-escamilla

You’re really excited about the new product you’ve envisioned and rightly so! It’s made of a flexible material (fabric, vinyl, felt, rubber, leather, etc.) so you know it needs to be sewn.  You don’t know how to sew but you’re sure you’re ready to take the next step to have it manufactured. At this point, you realize you want to maximize your investment in time and money but you’re concerned about how to explain what you want and get the best quality result. What to do?

There are ten things you can do before you meet with United Sewing and Design or another sewing contractor to insure that you are prepared. These tasks are what I wish all of my customers had done ahead. Thought invested doing these will save money during the consultation period and speed up the time it takes to get started. Sketches do not need to be attractive or perfect. None of the answers to these questions need to be exact at this point. Actually, it’s better if you’re open to suggestions from the sewing contractor you are hiring. They should be able to suggest changes that are right for your product and might save you materials, time and money while delivering the best possible results.

Find out more!

Four Strategies You Need to Use for Sewn Manufacturing Success

The global apparel and textile industry began to change about 9 years or so ago.  Back then, I noticed several trends beginning to mature. Notable among them were developing technologies for production, a growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and awareness of labor and environmental issues in production overseas.  Connections began to form between these trends leading to thoughts about strategies that the apparel industry in CT (the U.S.A.) should concentrate on to be most competitive. I believe they are:

·         innovationhanging sweaters

·         high quality

·         educating consumers

·         dedication to “Made in America”

This week, I’ll be discussing innovation. I would love to hear what you have to say on these subjects.

Technological Innovation

The inclusion of the latest technology, such as robotics, in the production of apparel is the single most powerful and expedient addition we can make to create a competitive industry in the U.S. After all, that’s what we here in CT do best, right? Innovation and a can do attitude are the core of “Yankee ingenuity!” The cost lowering affects of technology are one of the factors that are creating the “tipping point” between making the choice to manufacture in China or the U.S. This tipping point represents a call to action that has been growing from a whisper to a clamor so loud that even Walmart is hearing it!

Innovation in Manufacturing Methods

Lean manufacturing, a set of production practices developed in the auto industry to cut waste in manufacturing, is currently being used to advantage by manufacturers such as Joseph Abboud in RI.

It is not so much a hardware innovation as an innovation in thought from the problematic assembly line where workers are isolated to a reorganization of the manufacturing floor into “pods” or groups of workers who complete garments together. Lean manufacturing can cut production time from days to hours, especially when coupled with the computerization of printing, pattern drafting, marker making, cutting and sewing steps.

Software Innovation

Software such as Yunique PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is only one of the products created by Gerber Technology, one of the world’s leaders in computerized manufacturing support located right in Vernon, CT. Yunique PLM makes it possible for designers and manufacturers to communicate accurately and quickly to insure high quality and profits. 3D body scanning, being spearheaded by [TC]2rd the world leader in body scanning software and hardware located in Cary, NC, is making it possible to easily create a garment fitted to an individual’s exact measurements. AM4U (Apparel Manufacturing for You) located in Palo Alto, CA has created a digital printing process for fabrics which drastically cuts the time needed to print, eliminates the costly, environmentally unsound  practice of dyeing in water and produces a print that is impervious to bleaching and fading.

Employing these products in the manufacturing of apparel in CT falls right in line with the state initiatives to enhance high tech manufacturing. This level of manufacturing  generates professional careers in high paying jobs and the development of training opportunities and apprenticeships for our technical high schools and community colleges.

I am extremely excited about the position in which we find ourselves! The technological innovations being originated in our country, the growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and the economic tipping in our favor are creating an opportunity which we must seize. Please see the links below for more information.

Next week: how quality impacts competitiveness.