In a featured article in Portfolio magazine, American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney talks about his concerns about getting his factory shut down by the US Immigration department. Dov believes that a number of his high profile ads discussing immigration and the plight of illegal workers prompted a reaction by the government:
Charney’s newspaper spots all but said that American Apparel, like many other U.S. employers, makes use of illegal-immigrant labor. The ads directly criticized the Bush administration and asked the public if maybe it was time to be open and honest about the subject.
Last December, Charney was served with a notice of inspection by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the largest investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security, informing him that he needed to prepare documentation on all of his workers for review. Charney and his growing team of lawyers and consultants have taken this as a warning. The company has given the feds records for thousands of workers; Charney says he hasn’t heard a word in response. Since then, he’s spent his days bracing for a raid at any time on American Apparel’s factories.
… For most of the apparel business, illegal immigration is no longer an issue, since 97 percent of the clothing purchased in the U.S. is manufactured in foreign countries. In the world of T-shirts, all Charney’s major competitors—Hanes, Gap, and Fruit of the Loom—make their goods abroad. If the feds do raid American Apparel, they will walk into a factory of 4,000 or more employees who are living in a sort of phantasmagoric Charney dream of blue-collar America: largely immigrant, Hispanic, hardworking, and at an average of $12 an hour, probably better paid than any other workers on the planet sewing T-shirts. Most clothing manufacturers have decamped to foreign shores over the past two decades, but here in downtown L.A., American Apparel offers health insurance, an in-house health clinic, subsidized meals, English-language classes, and a host of other cushy incentives. It is, in some sense, a utopian enterprise.