Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009 | “The law is an ass,” said Micawber, and there are times one must agree.
American Apparel is a giant garment maker in Los Angeles, a successful company whose “Made in U.S.A.” labels on slacks, shirts and dresses shock customers used to seeing “Made in China” on everything they buy.
Employing some 10,000 workers, American Apparel keeps prices low enough to compete with imports from Southeast Asia, whose low prices in stores like Wal-Mart are made possible by sweatshop conditions. At a time when U.S. garment manufacturing, like most U.S. manufacturing, has left America to implant itself abroad, American Apparel is a growing success story, helping to mitigate the effects of 10 percent unemployment during what is now known as “The Great Recession.”
Last week, following a series of visits from immigration officials, American Apparel began firing some 1,800 employees whose papers were found to have “immigration discrepancies,” which is a nice way of saying they were fake.
“Many of you have been with me for so many years,” wrote company CEO Dov Charney to the fired employees, “that I just cry when I think you will be leaving the company. It is my belief that immigrants bring prosperity to any economy.” Most of the 1,800 are from Latin America, China, Korea and Vietnam.
American Apparel is no sweatshop: Its workers earn $10-$12 an hour, more than the garment industry standard, and receive health insurance and company stock. They pay income taxes. The fired workers are not likely to be deported, but will join the 15 million other workers currently unemployed in America. Many of them are parents of “citizen children,” American children of illegal immigrants, of which Los Angeles, with an estimated 500,000, is the world capital.