SWEATSHOP-FREE APPAREL.

08 SEPTEMBER 2002: SWEATSHOP-FREE
APPAREL.

http://www.americanapparel.net/

 

We’re not Chuck E. Cheese,
We’re not Wal-Mart.


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Los Angeles is our community,
and we share it with millions of disenfranchised people who have been,
and continue to be, humiliated. They live in fear because the US government
has refused to recognize them as fully franchised members of our society.
This has resulted in a society in denial˜a society looking more and more
like a well designed apartheid system…a society in contradiction, collecting
taxes from people they conveniently ignore.

Most companies operating
within this apartheid-like system don’t seem to care. Some are afraid of
immigration reprisals and others remain silent while salting away unconscionable
profits. Others, move their operations off shore where they are free to
pay poverty level wages with impunity.

American Apparel is addressing
this civil liberties crisis as it applies to California, the country as
a whole, and the apparel industry.

We discontinued the use of
sub-contractors and created a unique “manifacturing community”, supported
by loyal, highly motivated, fairly paid employees, enjoying the benefits
and rewards of a job well done. Specially, we are engineering our production
process so that every American Apparel employees will earn a living wage
and beyond. Our culture recognizes outstanding performance and promotes
from within. We provide health care benefits, training and education programs,
ESL, and soon to be operating day care facility.

At American Apparel our team
of 800 workers are committed to producing the best T-shirts available worldwide.
We now have one of the largest assortments of blank T-shirts available
anywhere ­ each made with 100% cotton and carefully designed for the
next generation of T-shirt users. Perhaps more exciting than our product
line,
which remains unrivaled in terms of its quality and value, is the political
mission of our company. The issue of sweatshops related to clothing manufacturers
moving production offshore has received attention from human rights groups
on an international level. Business leaders blame globalization, but American
Apparel is living proof that a value oriented product can be made without
resorting to exploitative measures.

Although most of our competition
has moved offshore, we have discontinued the use of sweatshops or offshore
factories, and we have a policy prohibiting any work outside of our factory
in order to achieve two primary objectives:  (1) Maintain our workplace
ethics; and (2) ensure the efficiency of our operation, which means making
the finest quality garments.

We have created a unique
“manufacturing community”, supported by loyal, highly motivated, failry
paid employees, enjoying the benefits and rewards of a job well done. Our
culture recognizes outstanding performance and promotes from within. We
provide health care benefits, training and education programs, and a soon
to be operating day care facility.

American Apparel is striving
to become a new model for the apparel industry, and asks for your support.
And
whether you care about our political mission or not, American Apparel is
the only choice for high end promotional T-shirts. The next time you are
looking for T-shirts to showcase your event, band, record label, or film,
please ask your local screen printer or promotions company for American
Apparel products.

100% of American Apparel
products are sewn at our Los Angeles facility. Although we previously used
sub-contractors, this greatly reduced our ability to control the rights
of the garment workers as well as our ability to control quality. Now we
are proud to say that we know the faces of all of our garment workers.
We have become one of the largest garment sewing facilities in the United
States.


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We provide our garment workers
with the most sophisticated equipment available on the market to cut and
sew garments. Any surplus cash is funneled directly into the purchase of
new equipment. We are constantly researching new manufacturing techniques,
and thus are able to increase output, and provide our workers with better
take home pay. Within the next 6 months we will bring in a Unit Production
System, which will provide many of our workers with robotic garment movers,
which will allow them to increase productivity and earn more money as a
result.


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We recently installed heating
and cooling equipment in our general sewing area. Although the equipment
is very basic, we hope to make improvements to the system in the future,
to better control the temperature in our manufacturing spaces.


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American Apparel has a human
resources department with over 10 employees. The department provides information
to employees about all existing company, county, or state and federal benefits.
We also allow workers go over questions about their paychecks, a practice
often not possible in other garment factories, where workers are fearful
to question their compensation.

Health Care. We have formed
an alliance with several local organizations that provide free or low cost
health care to all our employees. One such organization is the East Los
Angeles Health Task Force Inc. which provides primary care services, in
addition to health promotion and prevention, health education, health maintenance,
prenatal and post natal care, as well as pharmaceuticals for little or
no cost to American Apparel garment workers.


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American Apparel is attempting
to work with Para Los Ninos, a non-profit, LA-based daycare provider, to
offer low cost daycare to all the employees of American Apparel within
the next 6 months. Daycare is a top priority for the human resources department
at American Apparel.


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Almost all of American Apparel’s
garment workers have proper lighting above their sewing machines, in addition
to natural light from the outside. American Apparel has one of the best
lit garment factories in Los Angeles.


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For a year now, with the
assistance of partners like Worksite Wellness, an LA-based non-profit,
we have enrolled the children of our employees into California Healthy
Families, a state funded program which provides health care to the children
of legally documented, working parents. Average cost for this program is
about $7 per month.


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In downtown Los Angeles,
the reality is that many of the children from working families, are illegal
aliens. This has become one of the largest public health crises in the
United States. American Apparel has just entered into an agreement with
Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization that has pioneered current federal
programs to insure the children of illegal residents nationwide. American
Apparel will provide a company subsidized plan which will cost employees
only $2.50 per week, per child.

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We strictly adhere to all
California wage and hour laws. We pay overtime after 8 hours of work. We
offer 15 minute breaks twice daily. Our average garment worker is earning
over $8.00 per hour. Experienced garment workers generally earn more than
$10 per hour, and can make as much as $15. Once we stabilize our factory,
we hope to dramatically increase the wages of our workers. Although there
are seasonal changes that can affect the hours worked per week, all of
our garment workers are able to work over 2000 hours per year, and therefore
receive the benefits of full-time employment.


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Most garment workers in Los
Angeles use check cashing companies to deposit their weekly paychecks,
which costs each worker 1-2% of their paycheck. American Apparel employees
collectively spend over 150,000 per year on check cashing. American Apparel
is joining together with Wells Fargo, and other local banks, to provide
each worker with a bankcard and/or a free checking account. This program
should be in place by June 1, 2002. American Apparel is the only garment
factory among the thousands in Los Angeles that offers this kind of service.
This will even include Visa Check/ATM cards which is significant, since
workers will be able to use the ATM/VISA in order to send and spend money
abroad. Many workers in Los Angeles and around the country are getting
over charged by Western Union and American Express for simple transfers
to Mexico or central America. Not only will we remove check cashing from
the lives of our employees, but we will also help them save wire transfer
costs.


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During the off-peak season,
July-October, we will offer ESL classes for employees who want to learn
English, as we did last year. We have also taken advantage of the State
of California’s on-the-job training program and we recently launched a
training course involving over 50 factory supervisors.


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We offer free secure parking
in front of our facility.


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We subsidize bus passes for
all American Apparel garment workers.


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All of American Apparel’s
garment workers present the company with proper work documentation. Nonetheless,
American Apparel is sponsoring over 100 Los Angeles garment workers as
specialized workers, under the I-245 law temporarily removing the bar,
which disallowed many qualified local workers from applying for residency.
American Apparel is the only garment company that took advantage of the
Clinton immigration program which expired on April 31, 2001. When our workers
have any immigration issues or other legal problems, we offer help through
an alliance we have forged with Hermindad Mexicana Nacional, an organization
which provides working immigrants with legal assistance. American Apparel
recognizes that legalization of California workers is the most important
public issue facing the people of Los Angeles, and we hope to become a
catalyst in the movement towards the legalization of workers throughout
the USA. While we offer many benefits to our garment workers, we hope to
add much more in the future. We hope to become a social, political, and
commercial model that others can look to as a model for the future.

Categories: Uncategorized

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith. https://linktr.ee/jaywbabcock