Immigrant-Friendly American Apparel Demands Immigration Reform

Written by on October 28, 2008 in Economics, Reform with 3 Comments

In window of American Apparel, Washington, DC. Photo by afagen.

American Apparel–the U.S.’ biggest garment manufacturer–is sick of losing good workers to a broken immigration system. That’s why the company is raging its “Legalize LA” campaign and standing up for the legalization of the hard-working, but undocumented immigrants living in our country today.

Most recently, American Apparel released a memo as part of a voter registration drive challenging the silence of Barack Obama and John McCain on the issue of immigration stating, “It is essential that we do not idly stand by in this next election.”

Like many businesses, American Apparel is arguing that there is a definite economic benefit to immigrant labor that could be amplified by comprehensive immigration reform. Currently, federal regulations easily ensnare employers who unwittingly find themselves with undocumented workers, despite their best attempts to comply with confusing and often contradictory rules.

American Apparel is also a testament to the fact that a lot of companies are not bad apple employers that exploit immigrant labor and drive down the wages and working conditions of all workers. In fact, American Apparel proudly describe its products as “sweatshop free,” providing its workforce, both immigrant and non-immigrant, with:

  • $13 average hourly wages, $5 above California’s minimum;
  • Stock in the company;
  • Subsidized health care,
  • Bus passes and meals;
  • Free English classes;
  • Free telephone calls to family in Mexico

“These people don’t have freedom of mobility, they’re living in the shadows,” Canadian immigrant and American Apparel founder and chief executive, Dov Charney told the New York Times. “This is at the core of my company, at the core of my soul.”

From New York Times: Politics Wrapped in a Clothing Ad.



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  • American Apparel might be one of few that actually oblige by the rules. There are many companies out there that still under pay and over work immigrant works for the benefit of their company. It is disgusting to hear some of the stories. I commend American Apparel if they really do treat everyone equally.

  • There are actually many cases where immigrants are essentially held hostage by their employers. What I mean is that the employer is in control of their employee’s status. So they are able to manipulate them and make them work for a wage that would otherwise be unacceptable. The immigrant has no choice because they have to either obey, or go home.

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