LOS ANGELES — Attempts to create order inside 747 Warehouse Street at American Apparel headquarters may have just been thrown another wrench.
This story first appeared in the April 17, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Rumbles that the company’s factory workers are close to formally organizing continue with four fresh grievances filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board.
The complaints — made by Savino Rubio, Savino Refugio, Marina Cuellar and Richard Krehl — all cite varying violations of the National Labor Relations Act. But the common theme among the complaints allege American Apparel in some way interfered with workers’ rights to talk with union organizers.
A company spokesperson said the claims were “without merit.”
“Workers’ rights and respect for our employees are core principles of American Apparel,” the spokesperson said. “This is clear from our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, which reflects our efforts to ensure that American Apparel’s workplaces are free from harassment, bullying and intimidation, and which promotes fair treatment of employees and compliance with labor and employment laws. We are dedicated to a culture of free speech and social commentary.”
Roughly 60 percent of production workers, or about 2,800, have signed cards in favor of having the General Brotherhood of Workers and Hermandad Mexicana represent them, according to Nativo Lopez, senior adviser at the two groups. That could grow to about 80 percent by the end of the month, he said.
Hermandad Mexicana began working with some factory workers in March, establishing the Coalition of American Apparel Factory Workers United to Save American Apparel.
The organization, later that month, sent American Apparel’s board of directors a letter outlining reductions in workers’ hours and alleged threats by security guards. Among the list of grievances is also a demand to bring founder and former chief executive officer Dov Charney, fired late last year, back into the top spot at the company. The Securities and Exchange Commission launched in February an investigation into the events surrounding Charney’s ouster.
Even if current management addressed the concerns outlined by the workers, “It would be too little too late,” Lopez said, pointing out the recent layoffs of some 180 workers, most of them manufacturing jobs in Southern California. Some have used the round of cuts as ammunition against the current management team that is led by Paula Schneider.
However, Schneider told WWD in an interview earlier this month that the cuts were necessary as part of the turnaround strategy and were not the first in recent times for American Apparel. They follow 238 layoffs last year and 160 in 2013, she said.