Gildan wins American Apparel, step in wrong direction for sustainable fashion

Thousands of southern Californians will lose their jobs due to Gildan Activewear’s acquisition of American Apparel this week.

The Canadian-based company agreed to pay $88 million for the American Apparel brand and some manufacturing equipment, but will not be purchasing the retail assets of the store, according to a press release from the company.

American Apparel, as its name suggests, has always produced clothing within the Unites States. The company’s three main locations in South Gate, Garden Groves, and Los Angeles, California, employed over 3,000 workers, LA Times analysts said.

These employees, as well as the employees of their store locations across the globe, are going to be on the job hunt again soon.

Not only is Gildan deciding not to purchase the retail assets of the store, they will be outsourcing most of the manufacturing of the apparel to Central America and the Caribbean.

Considering Gildan’s not-so-glowing history with global manufacturing, this news shouldn’t send anyone jumping for joy. While outsourcing can be an extremely viable option, it’s only respectable when it involves fair trade and ethical manufacturing.

However, Gildan is known for unfair treatment of workers in Haiti and Honduras that has been ongoing for years.

In 2003, the Maquila Solidarity Network, a Toronto–based nongovernmental organization focused on labor rights, published a report on Gildan. In the report, the MSN revealed that Gildan paid its Honduran workers far less than minimum wage, and workers were prone to stress injuries due to repetitive, intense production.

The report also featured claims from workers, including those who were laid off after expressing interest in joining a union and many women who were laid off due to pregnancy.

Instead of refuting the claims or owning up to their mistakes, Gildan threatened to sue MSN. Representatives of Gildan claimed they had “issues” back then (clearly), but they’re better now.

More recently though, in early 2014, Gildan began and never finished negotiations with its Haitian suppliers to provide a better minimum wage, according to this report from the Globe and Mail. Also, claims are still surfacing about the company firing workers for being associated with a union.

There are many problems circling around in this case.

The blatant concern is that Gildan’s outsourcing is wreaking havoc on workers in Central America and the Caribbean. These workers can’t make a living wage and have been devoid of their freedom of association.

This issue stems from a larger issue: the fast-fashion industry is continuing to grow and become incredibly popular. Manufacturing garments quickly and in mass quantities is all that matters, because it equates to far more money earned by the corporation and far less of it spent by the consumer.

It’s easy to point fingers and blame Gildan for their inhumane treatment, but who’s stopping them?

It’s sad to see American Apparel go, but it’s more disappointing to see fast-fashion conglomerates gain strength from the exchange.

This is definitely a step in the wrong direction in terms of sustainable and ethical fashion and gives rise to the ever-growing fast-fashion industry that needs to come to an end.

 

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