Los Angeles—A skirmish between factory workers and the new executive regime at American Apparel has apparently erupted this week with workers charging harassment and physical intimidation at the retailer’s manufacturing facility here.
With the support of Hermandad Mexicana, an immigrant’s rights advocacy non-profit, factory workers of American Apparel have united to establish a coalition of workers to advocate for their rights before the new corporate management. This weekend, about 500 employees are expected to meet under the auspices of the Coalition of American Apparel Factory Workers United to Save American Apparel.
Earlier this week, Ana Almador filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that security staff “accosted and interrogated” her after she attended the first coalition meeting on February 16. According to the NLRB filing, a security employee confiscated flyers from Almador, then seized her ID badge to photograph it.
‘Bordering on Insurrection’
In an official statement, company responded: “American Apparel will investigate these allegations to determine the actual facts. If anyone is found to have been intimidating employees, we will take the appropriate action to remedy the situation.”
The workers coalition is raising demands such as: stop using “Sweatshop Free” in company advertising; stop the blind reduction of production hours and the furloughing of workers; and stop the incessant intimidation of workers by security guards and supervisors merely for seeking to meet and organize themselves to address workplace issues.
Coalition spokesperson Maria Luisa Salgado said: “The current situation of intimidation by large and gruff security guards directed at workers for having a flyer calling for meetings, and interrogating them about meetings, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and the National Labor Relations Board Act. We are involved in protected activity, and such harassment needs to stop immediately. The current corporate management is estranged from the cultural spirit that existed at American Apparel under the leadership of its founder, Dov Charney. Under the new management, we do not feel safe or dignified.”
“The workforce from the top down — employees that have been there for a long time — are extremely unhappy with the new regime who have no knowledge of American Apparel’s business or culture,” said Keith Fink of Fink & Steinberg, a law firm involved in the dispute. “It’s bordering on an insurrection.”
Charney was ousted as chief executive last summer after complaints to American Apparel’s board of direction of sexual harassment. Ironically, it was Charney who in 2003 launched an immigration reform campaign known as “Legalize LA.”
In January, Paula Schneider, a former president at Warnaco, was appointed chief executive officer.