American Apparel workers protest layoffs and store closings

About 100 American Apparel workers rallied at the clothing maker's downtown Los Angeles headquarters to protest layoffs and store closings.

Many marched in front of the company's salmon-colored building holding placards with sayings such as "Corruption & Media Manipulation -- That's the #newAmerican Apparel" and "Stop lying."

Factory workers, who have dealt with furloughs and cut hours in recent months, said they were fed up with management.

Cipriano Vilchis, a machine mechanic who has worked at American Apparel five years, said many employees consider executives such as Chief Executive Paula Schneider to be "liars" with no interest in employees' welfare.

"She tells you something but she acts in a different way," the South L.A. resident said. "She says 'I will protect jobs,' and the next day she lays off people."

In April, the retailer laid off about 180 employees, largely in its sprawling manufacturing operations in the Southland. Afterward, Vilchis said managers promised that employees would go back to a 40-hour a week schedule. But they never followed through, he said.

Many employees also say their pay has drastically fallen. Vilchis said he now brings home about $450 a week, less than half what he earned a year ago.

The rally was in response to American Apparel's announcement Monday that it planned to lay off an unspecified number of employees and close some retail locations as part of an effort to turn around its struggling business.

American Apparel did not say whether jobs at the manufacturing, retail or corporate offices would be affected, or at all three.

Several employees said workers in the corporate offices, at the La Mirada distribution center and in the sample room have lost their jobs this week.

Nativo Lopez, a senior advisor with Hermandad Mexicana, which is helping workers organize, said an additional 40 employees have been told to go home and await further instruction from management.

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