Montiel is not in a Mexican factory, or in China - he works at a company in the basement of a building in downtown Los Angeles.
"You can't buy anything you need. Between rent and food, everything is gone, no money is left," said Montiel, who lives with two roommates in Boyle Heights.
Forever 21 is one of several companies that have been supplied by independent Southern California factories that pay workers much less than the state minimum wage, the Labor Department announced last week.
The department said that from April to July, it investigated 77 local garment companies that were supplying some of the biggest clothing stores in the nation.
Investigators uncovered labor violations in 85 percent of the cases, the department said, and found that the companies cheated workers out of $1.1m. The retailers with ties to companies that had the most offenses were Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21 and TJ Maxx.
Workers were paid as little as $4 an hour, and they got $7 an hour on average - $3 less than the state minimum wage, according to the Labor Department.
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