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California Requirement Riles Apparel Decorators
Vol. 820 
May 31, 2011

Apparel decorators in California are outraged that they are being made to register as garment manufacturers with the state, a requirement that includes taking a $25 exam and paying an annual fee of $750 to $2,500. Worried that the California requirement will set a dangerous precedent that other states will follow, some decorators are taking the battle to superior court, arguing that they shouldn't be classified as manufacturers.

"If they can get away with this here they can get away with it anywhere," says Paul Heully, owner of Lightning Ridge Screenprinting and Embroidery in Ventura, CA. Heully was fined $300 – $100 per employee – for failing to have a garment registration certificate. The state is also empowered to confiscate garments of unregistered manufacturers, though that didn't happen to Heully.

Labor officials rejected Heully's appeal of the fines at an administrative hearing, and now he's taking the fight to the courtroom. Heully and other decorators contend that they should not have to register as garment manufacturers because they are not making clothing or related accessories. "No one would say that someone who puts a vinyl sticker on a car is manufacturing the car," says Don Tillquist, an embroiderer/screenprinter who was fined recently for failing to have a garment registration certificate. "It's the same thing with us. We're just putting an image on something that is already made."

State labor authorities say the labor code states that "finishing" a garment constitutes manufacturing. What apparel decorators do is finishing, and thus they must register, says Debbie Jimenez, a deputy labor commissioner. "They're doing something to the garment," Jimenez says. "It's not a finished product until they do something to the t-shirt."

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