A worker at American Apparel has filed a charge against the Los Angeles apparel maker, alleging that a company security guard "accosted and interrogated" her after she attended a meeting to discuss workplace issues.
Ana Amador, an American Apparel factory employee, said in a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board that she went to a gathering of company employees last month to discuss a recent reduction in work hours.
The meeting is just one of several that workers have held in recent months to discuss concerns, including a slashing of hours and what they view as intimidation by management, said Keith Fink, a lawyer who filed the complaint on behalf of Amador. He said many workers are unsatisfied with the changing environment after a company shake-up resulted in founder Dov Charney being fired as chief executive in December and Paula Schneider taking the helm in January.
"The workers are not happy," he said. "They have a right to organize."
In the complaint, Amador said she and other employees saw Blue Montez, American Apparel's director of asset protection and risk management, "conducting surveillance" of the meeting.
Amador alleges that after the meeting, another security guard with American Apparel stopped her near her car. He "demanded information" about the meeting and took informational fliers she had received, the complaint said. He also "seized" her employee ID badge and took a photo of it.
"Numerous American Apparel employees present at the meeting experienced similar incidences of interrogation and intimidation," the complaint said.
The American Apparel workers are getting organizational help from Hermandad Mexicana, a Santa Ana-based group that advocates for immigrant worker rights. Nativo Lopez, an activist with the group, said immigrant workers pay an annual fee to become a member of Hermandad Mexicana, which helps people deal with any workplace issues. He says at least 700 American Apparel employees are members.
In a statement, American Apparel said it will investigate the allegations and will take action to remedy the situation if it discovers anyone intimidating the workers. The company, which operates the nation's biggest apparel manufacturing facility in downtown Los Angeles, said it works hard to "promote fair treatment of employees and compliance with labor and employment laws."
"Core principals of American Apparel are workers' rights and respect for our employees," the company said. "We remain dedicated to a culture of free speech and social commentary."
In an interview last week, Schneider, the new CEO, said there was has been a recent reduction in hours, but she said the drop comes naturally after the holiday season, which is traditionally the busiest time for retailers.
"We are managing our hours and our people just like any other company would," she said. "It's always to keep cash in reserves, the plan is always to maintain our liquidity. These are business needs."