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Screen Printers Fight Back

(August 2011) posted on Tue Jul 26, 2011

Unfortunately for California’s screen printers and embroiderers, this year they once again failed to get their amendment to the GML addressed.

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By Andy MacDougall

“We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.” Yeah. Help yourself to our money!

As municipal, state/provincial, and national government costs go up, so does their need to take more and more of our money through taxes and fees. In Canada and the U.S., the politicians slash income and corporate taxes, but this just means other layers of government must be creative to find more cash. I have this sick vision of government tax collectors and inspectors from different states getting together with their peers in Las Vegas (taxpayer funded, of course) and having roundtable discussions where they share ideas about shaking down whole industries.

My interest in these tactics was re-awakened by a letter to the editor of Screen Printing magazine regarding a little war going on in California between T-shirt printers and the Department of Labor (DoL). Apparently, flying squads of DoL bureaucrats have been systematically hitting up screen-printing shops and assessing fines and collecting fees as they enforce rules pertaining to a quaint little piece of sweatshop labor war history called a Garment Manufacturing License (GML), which a few states keep on the books, even though the textile industry is more or less gone from North America. Targeting of screen printers has been going on for a number of years. Searching the Web for “garment manufacturer’s license California” turns up some tales of shakedowns that would make the Mafia blush.

Most shops raided have never heard of the GML. Once informed of the rules, the most common reaction is, “We don’t manufacture clothing!” Not according to California Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet, who said, “Silk screening and embroidery companies need to know that they are included in the garment industry as manufacturers and must comply with garment-industry labor and registration requirements.”


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