| LOS ANGELES, July 8
LOS ANGELES, July 8 Ousted American Apparel Inc
head Dov Charney supported workers in the clothing
industry with his stance in favor of immigration rights and
determination to keep jobs in the United States, but some
employees are not returning the favor.
Four of the six workers who would talk to a Reuters reporter
outside the company's downtown Los Angeles factory said they
back the board's decision to fire Charney, the company's
outspoken founder who has been dogged by lawsuits and
allegations of sexual harassment.
During breaks at a food truck parked near American Apparel's
main 800,000-square-foot factory that produces brightly colored
T-shirts and leather goods, workers said they hoped new
leadership would fix problems that have saddled the 250-store
chain with losses in 16 of the past 17 quarters.
"I hope things do change. Work has been slow for about five
months," said Jose Barrera, 42.
"That's bad because my wife also works here and sometimes
she can only work three days a week," said Barrera, who has been
with American Apparel for about two years and makes $10 per hour
in the sewing department.
While he would like to earn more, he said he is glad to be
making $1 above Los Angeles' minimum wage in an environment that
lacks the pressure he experienced at some other textile
factories in the city.
Many workers declined to comment, saying they weren't
Charney, 45, started American Apparel's predecessor
companies in 1989 and has been at the helm since 2007, when the
company went public.
Last month American Apparel's board dismissed Charney. It
accused the chairman, president and chief executive of misusing
corporate funds and failing to prevent the dissemination of nude
photos of a female ex-employee who sued him.
Charney, who is known for his unconventional behavior, has
fought off a series of sexual harassment lawsuits in recent
years, including one from the former employee who claimed she
was held as a teenage sex slave. American Apparel claimed the
woman had stalked Charney and was trying to shake down the
American Apparel and Charney did not respond to requests for
Charney made immigration reform a central theme of American
Apparel's message, and the phrase "Legalize LA" is emblazoned on
the company's salmon-colored factory.
He grabbed headlines in 2009, when he marched with workers
in a May Day protest rally for immigrant rights. However, just a
few months later, American Apparel was forced to lay off 1,500
workers who lacked documents needed to work in the United
States. It is unclear how many people currently work at the
The company is a poster child for the "Made in the USA"
movement, especially given that only an estimated 3 percent to 5
percent of apparel sold in the country is from domestic
Experts say it works because American Apparel makes its
T-shirts, leggings and other products in small batches that can
be delivered quickly to stores, something foreign manufacturers
can't do cost effectively.
David Williams, 31, works in the department that makes
leather handbags and belts. He recently got a promotion, but
still earns Los Angeles' $9 per hour minimum wage because the
company put his $1 raise on hold due to a slowdown in business.
Williams, who is leaving next week for a better-paying job
as a longshoreman, expects new management to run the company a
Manuel Arellano, 52, who has been with the company almost
five years, is concerned that new bosses may not be as involved
"Maybe ... they don't even come to see how things are going
here," he said.
Shortly after firing Charney in June, local management told
workers at the factory that American Apparel would not be sold.
"We're not shutting down, so everything is OK," said Heather
Baez, 26, who works in the corporate office onsite.
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein and Alicia Avila in Los Angeles;
Edited by Ronald Grover, Lisa Von Ahn and Martin Howell)