LOS ANGELES — Moves to shore up efficiencies on the factory floor by American Apparel were met with calls Monday to boycott the company’s products by a group that’s looking to mobilize workers and unionize.
The boycott came in response to cuts made last week at American Apparel that chief executive officer Paula Schneider said in a memo to workers was a move to create consistency and improve quality through the consolidation of the production line to a single floor. Schneider also said in the memo that the cuts would realign a production workforce that’s split roughly evenly between those employees making basics and those assigned to more complex pieces, with denim called out as an example in the letter. Demand via the wholesale and American Apparel store business, however, is mostly coming from the basics side, the memo pointed out. “As a result of this change, more complicated garments may be outsourced. If we do decide to produce some pieces out-of-house they will still be American-made,” Schneider wrote in her memo.
The General Brotherhood of Workers of American Apparel alleges that the company has already been outsourcing and that the work includes a mix of basics, such as T-shirts, and denim.
A spokeswoman for American Apparel, reached Monday, declined comment on the number of workers cut and said the company is only considering outsourcing.
General Brotherhood of Workers trustee Nativo Lopez said Monday the most recent count the group had of workers who were part of last week’s cuts totaled 526 across the Los Angeles, Garden Grove and South Gate facilities.
“It could hurt [union certification efforts] in the sense that people who get terminated, they tend to take off, get lost [or] look for other work. They leave behind anything they were involved with,” Lopez said.
An election date for certification is pending and appears to hinge on the question of to what extent, if any, American Apparel founder and former ceo Dov Charney has been involved with the organization’s efforts.
American Apparel alleged in court documents last month, filed in support of a subpoena that would compel Charney to produce any communications with the General Brotherhood, that the group comprises Charney’s friends and roommates and “exists for the personal benefit of Mr. Charney,” thus creating a conflict of interest. The organization has maintained Charney has had nothing to do with the group’s formation.
The latest strife comes as American Apparel seeks firmer footing after exiting from bankruptcy earlier this year. The company shuttered its Hawthorne, Calif., dye facility and also saw the departure of its longtime head of manufacturing Martin “Marty” Bailey.
It more recently ushered in three new board members, including a new chairman in former Liz Claiborne Inc. chairman and ceo Paul R. Charron. The other appointments included Scoop and Zac Posen ceo Susan Davidson and St. John Knits ceo Bruce Fetter.