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American Apparel CEO on May Day: 'Immigrants are good,' for LA and the US

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, at 08:19AM
Hayley Fox/Blogdowntown

Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel will march in support of immigrants' rights at the downtown L.A. May Day parade on Tuesday.

Dov Charney, founder and CEO of the U.S.-made clothing company American Apparel, says immigration reform is the most important issue that affects Los Angeles.

"Immigrants are good: They're good for Los Angeles, they're good for America, they're not only hardworking people but they bring the motivational energy that creates jobs and creates prosperity," Charney told Blogdowntown Monday from his office at the American Apparel factory in Downtown.

Charney said he's been publicly advocating for immigrants' rights for more than 10 years, supporting changes in national and local policy that would help undocumented workers get legal status, receive fair wages and avoid exploitation by employers.

On Tuesday, Charney will lead American Apparel employees, ex-employees, friends and family in the Downtown L.A. May Day parade in support of workers' rights.

In an open letter to his staff, Charney said he will be closing the DTLA factory from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. to encourage sewing and cutting workers to participate in the event.

The outspoken CEO said that current immigration policies have caused a great divide throughout Los Angeles, a city with the largest immigrant population in the U.S.

"It's fragmented families -- it's also fragmented the L.A. economy. We basically have an apartheid system economy," he said.

Charney explained that many workers are stuck "in the shadows," often paying taxes but not being able to reap the benefits they deserve. And the issue spans every neighborhood in the city.

"They're not just at the convenience store in Boyle Heights," Charney said of undocumented workers. "They're in the fanciest restaurant in Beverly Hills."

Charney is holding many accountable for policy reform; from the Hollywood elite who have the star influence to sway voters and politicos to the politicians themselves, who are too "paralyzed by populist politics" to take the necessary steps to create change. He said that everyone from Hilary Clinton to George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have failed to follow through on their immigration promises.

"It's a political issues," Charney added. "It's easier to feed upon nationalist fears rather than embrace these people."

Charney's approximately 2 million-square-foot Downtown factory has about 5,000 employees working everyday -- thousands of which are immigrants, he said.

Charney himself is originally from Montreal, Canada.

Current immigration policies have created a "turbine" of employees, he said, where undocumented workers are hired, fired and then obtain new fake documents only to be hired again somewhere else -- its created a "musical chairs" of employment.

"The problem is that democracy doesn't always support the right thing when it comes to immigration," Charney said. "It doesn't because, when we're dealing with minorities you know...the Nazis were democratically elected. Sometimes we have to take a higher ground."

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