Rolling Up Our Sleeves for American Apparel Workers

American Apparel

Just days after American Apparel factories were shuttered, hundreds of its former workers attend a seminar aimed at helping them secure new jobs, training, and other resources.

Efforts are underway to help about 3,000 American Apparel workers now facing unemployment after the company was sold in a bankruptcy auction.

Rapid response teams from the County’s Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS), as well as the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD), have been deployed to guide former sewers, cutters, knitting supervisors and others in their search for new jobs and training, as well as applying for unemployment insurance and other benefits.

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An old American Apparel poster

With 80 percent of American Apparel’s workforce based at its corporate headquarters and main factory in downtown LA, within the County’s Second District, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas fought to prevent the mass layoffs from occurring in the first place. He petitioned the chief judge of the bankruptcy court to stipulate that the buyer “retain as many of the thousands of American Apparel workers as possible.” He added, “We simply cannot allow 3,000 family-supporting jobs to be eliminated.”

American Apparel, however, went on the auction block after years of financial turmoil that included two bankruptcy filings. Gildan Activewear Inc., a Canadian company, purchased what was once North America’s largest clothing manufacturer for $88 million in cash.

As soon as the pinks slips were handed out, a host of government agencies and community-based organizations came together to help.

“Regrettably, we still have situations where our local businesses experience difficulties in this economy,” said the County’s WDACS Assistant Director, Josephine Marquez. “In the advent of American Apparel’s decision to close their operations, the WDACS; Department of Public Social Services (DPSS); State Employment Development Department (EDD); the City of Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and a variety of other social service programs have come together to assist American Apparel during its transition, and to assist its employees with resources that hopefully stabilize their situations and move them to reemployment as quickly as possible.”

DPSS sent staff to determine the former employees’ eligibility for CalWORKs, CalFresh and General Relief benefits. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Division of Adult and Career Education, as well as the Los Angeles Community College District, offered a wide range of career and technical education programs along with basic and secondary education courses. English as a Second Language classes were made available as well, since American Apparel’s diverse workforce spoke 17 different languages.

The US Department of Labor, WorkSource California, America’s Job Centers of California, and dozens of community-based organizations also provided support. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Director of Workforce and Education policy, Lisa Salazar, noted, “Although this is a very distressing situation where we have thousands of workers who are now unemployed, today is a great example of how our collective systems from the City, County, state EDD, LAUSD and LA Trade Tech can bring services forward to these individuals who need them most.”

LAUSD Division of Adult and Career Education program and policy development coordinator, Laura Chardiet, expressed confidence that training and other services would help the former American Apparel workers move on to new careers. “This is what we do,” she said. “We specialize in working with people who have high barriers, and we’re also very good at accelerating their learning so people can get the training they need to get a job as soon as possible.”

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American Apparel’s now-closed corporate headquarters and main factory in downtown Los Angeles


Lucas Museum Lands in Exposition Park


Supervisor Mark RIdley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti announce the Lucas Museum will be build in Exposition Park. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas thanked legendary filmmaker George Lucas for bringing his $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Exposition Park, where it is expected to create thousands of employment opportunities for people in South Los Angeles and beyond.

“It is a momentous day for the people of Los Angeles County as we celebrate the decision to build the Lucas Museum in Exposition Park,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The Lucas Museum will bring thousands of jobs to the County, not only in the construction industry but in the art, education and hospitality industries as well.”

“Exposition Park is the ideal site for the Lucas Museum, as it is already a destination hub in the County, with ample and consistent public transportation and convenient access to multiple freeways,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “Its proximity to USC, along with dozens of elementary, middle and high schools, will help boost the learning experience of thousands of children each year, and provide an understanding of the science and technological skills needed for a career in the film, animation and design industries.”

In a statement, the Museum’s Board of Directors said they picked Exposition Park because “South Los Angeles’ Promise Zone best positions the museum to have the greatest impact on the broader community, fulfilling our goal of inspiring, engaging and educating a broad and diverse visitorship.”

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in November to issue a resolution declaring Exposition Park as the ideal location for the Lucas Museum. They also heard testimony from several leading proponents of the arts and the entertainment industry.

DreamWorks Animation cofounder and former CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in November, “This museum is a $1.5-billion philanthropic gift. For Los Angeles to become its home would be a game changer – its impact on our culture, on our children, on tourism, on commerce would be incredible.” Natural History Museum president and director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga added, “The Lucas Museum would take Exposition Park to a new level as a local and national destination.”

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson was also at the November hearing, and said Lucas has long been a passionate supporter of arts education for children. “I think this museum is an extension of that desire to communicate his love of art, his love of storytelling, to a much broader audience.” And California Science Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rudolph said a new museum by the creator of Star Wars would complement the permanent home of the space shuttle Endeavor.

Also during that November meeting, Faye Washington, representing both the YCWA of Greater Los Angeles and the Promise Zone of South Central Los Angeles, expresed hope that the museum would improve the community’s economic prospects. “It’s going to lower the unemployment rate – that 12 percent rate in South Central will go down,” she said. Meanwhile, LA Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Toebben pledged support from the business community.

The Lucas Museum will exhibit paintings by Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; as well as illustrations, comic art and photography by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth.

It would also provide an insider’s perspective on the cinematic creative process, featuring concept art, storyboards, set design, props, costume and fashion, animation and visual effects. There would be public lectures and classes for all ages, hands-on workshops, after-school programs and camps, and a wide variety of additional educational opportunities.



Board Declares Emergency and Places Homeless Initiative on Ballot

With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors declared homelessness an emergency in Los Angeles County, and asked voters to approve a March 7 ballot measure aimed at financing desperately needed solutions.

It was one of the first acts of the newly reconstituted Board. It came in response to motions by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and after impassioned testimony from a capacity crowd in attendance at the Hall of Administration.

“All around us, we find human beings living in utter squalor – a shocking number of them families with children,” he said. “With this historic vote, we are taking a bold step towards ending this humanitarian crisis, the defining civic issue of our time.”

image11Voters will be asked to approve a ¼-cent sales tax that would raise about $355 million annually over a decade. “To put this funding in perspective, a ¼ cent sales tax would translate into an additional tax of 10 cents on the purchase of a $40 sweater, or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television,” explained Phil Ansell, director of the County’s Homeless Initiative.

If approved by 2/3 of voters, the ballot measure would fund rental assistance, subsidized healthcare, mental health and substance abuse treatments, and other services to help people get off – and stay off – the streets.

“The emergency declaration, which I co-authored with Supervisor Ridley Thomas, reinforces the County’s strong commitment to addressing – and solving – the homeless crisis in a compassionate way that will emphasize rehabilitation, mental health, alcohol/drug treatment and housing opportunities,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

image6“This is the time to act to provide a dedicated revenue stream to begin to address the incredible crisis that we have with 47,000 people sleeping on our streets,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion for a March 7 ballot measure.

Both motions drew support from elected officials, as well as a coalition of 75 organizations representing advocates for the homeless; leaders of business, philanthropic, academic and faith-based communities; labor unions, environmentalists, and many others.

Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a video and letter to the Board, saying, “The ballot measure you plan to put before County voters in March will fund the supportive services that – combined with housing – will help get people off the streets permanently.” LA City Councilmen Jose Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Gil Cedillo also expressed support.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad added, “It’s very important that we provide the services that the homeless need, especially the 6,000 homeless children we have in Los Angeles County.”

coalition-of-75-2Alex Johnson of Children’s Defense Fund-California noted children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless are sick four times more often and four times more likely to show delayed development. “This measure would work to ensure all children have the care and stability they need to reach their full potential,” he said.

“The cost of not providing services is too high,” added Marsha Temple of Integrated Recovery Network. “The people experiencing homelessness who are severely disabled by mental incapacity are costing the county well over $1 billion a year.”

Gary Toebben of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce said, “This is not just a social issue, this is also an economic issue. To provide proper care and housing to the homeless is to dramatically reduce the cost of other social services that we need in our community.”

LA County Firefighters Union Local 1014 President Dave Gilotte pledged solidarity with the Board, saying, “LA County finally made a decision today with these five great leaders to say we’re not going to walk past another homeless person and pretend like they don’t exist.”

In an emotional testimony, Reba Stevens, a formerly homeless person, urged the Board to move forward with the March 7 ballot measure. “I’m begging you, it’s what we must do,” she said.


A Historic Changing of the Guard


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors: (L-R) Sheila Kuehl, HIlda Solis, Janice Hahn, Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas

With its newly elected members, Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger, sworn into office, the Board of Supervisors marks a turning point in the leadership of Los Angeles County.

For the first time since the Board was founded in 1852, four of its five members are women, and its chairman is African American.

“It is my honor to be a part of this newly reconstituted Board,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Second District. “I have no doubt this Board will represent the people of Los Angeles County in an extraordinary way.”

The Board also includes Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, who represent the First and Third Districts, respectively.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Board would tackle the crisis of homelessness gripping the County and a host of other issues, including immigration; environmental stewardship; the protection of women and girls; the rights of the incarcerated; and services for foster youth. “There’s no shortage of work, no shortage of leadership, and I’m ready to get to it,” he said.

bcb_3137-2Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn vowed to honor the legacy of her father, the late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who represented the Second District for 40 years, from 1952 to 1992. The Hall of Administration, seat of county government, bears his name.

“I will bring the same passion for service that he did everyday,” she promised after being sworn in by her brother, Superior Court Judge and former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn.

Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger took the oath of office administered by her predecessor, Michael Antonovich, who served for 36 years, starting in 1980. “All of our communities deserve an open door to their county government – and to know that the county government is committed to working for them,” she said. “I am also committed to working with everyone – those within the county, and those who partner with the county – in a cooperative, solution-driven manner that places people and problem-solving above all else.”

One of the first acts of the newly reconstituted Board will be to consider declaring an emergency on homelessness, and placing a measure on the March 7 ballot that would help fund solutions to the crisis. Both votes are scheduled the day after the swearing-in ceremonies.

barger-antonovich-swearing-inIn their joint motion to declare an emergency, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Barger wrote, “The County of Los Angeles is facing a grave public emergency, the pervasive and deepening homeless crisis, which currently endangers the health and safety of tens of thousands of residents, including veterans, women, children, LGBTQ youth, persons with disabilities and seniors.”

They added, “The tremendous scale of homelessness in the County threatens the economic stability of the region by burdening emergency medical services and the social services infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, in a separate motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn called for placing a ballot initiative before voters on March 7 that would provide an estimated $355 million in annual funding to address the crisis.


Community Organization Finds Funding

From Culver City to From Culver City to Carson, Lynwood to Ladera Heights, leaders of nonprofit organizations serving residents in South Los Angeles attended a series of free leadership workshops. With the goal of helping non-profit organizations achieve greater sustainability, programmatic effectiveness, and financial strength, the seven-month training was designed to help participating groups strengthen and expand their capacity to serve their constituents. Founders, executive directors and other leaders of nonprofit organizations expressed appreciation after going through the program.

IMG_1396One participant, Melissa Wyatt, Executive Director of Foundation for Second Chances attended and credits the workshop for the recently awarded three-year $1.1M contract from the Department of Labor for a Youth Build program.

“I truly appreciate the Second District Capacity Building and Leadership Development Program,” Wyatt said. “The workshop was so inspiring and motivating that I knocked the budget and compliance part out of the park.”

Foundation for Second Chances is a community-based organization, which utilizes hands-on education, mentoring, health awareness and community service to maximize the potential of youth.

The Second District Capacity Building and Leadership Development Program is supported by a collaborative partnership between Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the California Community Foundation, the Empowerment Congress, and Community Partners. The program provided training and resources to help with fundraising, board effectiveness, civic engagement and financial accountability.

“Nonprofits have to be prepared to transition – there’s nothing to celebrate about doing things the way they always have been done,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told participants at the culmination of the program. “Innovation coupled with accountability is fundamentally key to success of our human services infrastructure.”

Nancy Harris, executive director of Holman Community Development Corp., which helps with youth employment, and job readiness training, housing and education, said, “Our nonprofit is at an interesting stage where we need to take it to the next level. This process that we went through at the Supervisor’s lead has really helped me clearly see what our next level is.”
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