American Apparel Forced to Lay Off 1,800 Immigrant Workers
By Mariela Rosario
Latina, October 2, 2009
After a lengthy investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, American Apparel owner Dov Charney has been forced to fire 1,800 employees (about a quarter of the company's workforce) because of their immigration status.
The firings at the well-regarded Los Angeles based company provide a clear example of how the Obama administration is trying to move from workplace raids to forced termination in the fight against illegal immigration. But the firings are not without controversy, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the terminations were 'devastating' and his office publicly called on the federal government to focus on employers that exploit and abuse their workers. American Apparel has historically been very good to their workers, providing all of their garment producers with health and life insurance and paying them well above the standard going rate for garment workers.
But politicians like Representative Brian P. Bilbray, a Republican from San Diego, say that the firings are fair for employers like American Apparel, whom he says have 'become addicted to illegal labor.'
'Of course its a good idea,' Mr. Bilbray said of the crackdown. 'They seem to think that somehow the law doesnt matter, that crossing the line from legal to illegal is not a big deal.'
In efforts to raise awareness of a campaign to grant legal status to illegal immigrants (a move President Obama has supported in the past), American Apparel began producing t-shirts that say 'Legalize LA.'
'No matter how we choose to define or label them,' Dov Charney said, illegal immigrants 'are hard-working, taxpaying workers.'