Lying Media Bastards

August 21, 2006

Dirty Laundry

American Apparel is the clothing company of choice for many progressives out there, due to it’s non-sweatshop conditions. Many orgs out there try to do the right thing, buy sweatshop-free blank shirts to paste their logos on and sell, and AA’s prices are pretty reasonable.

However, the company is anti-union, its owner has numerous sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits pending against him, and the company’s advertising is often exploitative of women (in a quasi-porn kinda way). From formal and informal sources, it seems like owner Dov Charney is a sleazy motherfucker, who feels that his “paternal benevolence” averts the need for his employees to unionize, and that he is really a wannabe porn magnate who happens to be in the clothing business.

Clamor Magazine decided to take the company on, and published a very nice exposé of the company. And it should come as no surprise that they have received a threatening legal letter from American Apparel, demanding a retraction and public apology. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that AA have no case unless they can prove that Clamor wrote things that they knew to be untrue with the intent of hurting the company.

Amusingly, Clamor did print one correction to their AA coverage:

In this Fall 2006 issue, we incorrectly reported that Mary Nelson, a store manager at American Apparel, had withdrawn her sexual harassment suit against CEO Dov Charney. It has come to our attention that the suit by Mary Nelson, a sales manager, is still pending, and that an unnamed store manager withdrew her suit against the company.

Sometimes, the truth hurts.

Clamor has announced that they are standing by their story, and point out that a company which pulls in a yearly $250 million in profits threatening to sue a small social justice magazine kinda runs counter to progressive values.

Of course, the proper course of action to me seems to be to publicize Clamor’s AA articles, as well as AA’s strongarm tactics. Read the article. Tell your friends. Maybe send a link to your local newspaper and TV station.

I should also mention that the Clamor piece recommends several non-sweatshop alternatives that (to my knowledge) don’t try to force their employees to have sex with the boss:

Alternative
Justice Clothing
No Sweat

Posted by Jake on August 21, 2006 8:47 pm

13 Comments »

  1. Clamor’s article is so old news. And not remotely clever. This is the era where unions are actually businesses, where the values that they used to uphold are mixed in wth political machinations, corruption and the daily challenge of running a profitable bank. Caring about the downtrodden is no longer a black and white thing. AA does more for its employees than most unionized companies. I’m tired of self styled progressives taking a dump oon a company that they ought to be supporting. But the proof is in the pudding though, aint it? Despite the baseless hatred, people keep voting with their pocketbooks. And Clamor? Never heard of them.

    Comment by yawn — August 22, 2006 @ 1:03 am

  2. it sounds like you paid 19 bucks for a t-shirt and now you feel indebted to protect that itchy label on the back of your neck. there is so much smoke surrounding the owner of this company, i’d be very very surprised if the courts don’t put out at least one of the fires.

    and as for being tired, I would suggest getting a job in manufacturing before you fall into the trap of thinking that giving someone a paycheck proves your benevolence.

    Comment by some guy — August 22, 2006 @ 7:36 am

  3. heads up:

    After nearly 6 months of work and hundreds of hours of interviews and research, Knowmore.org is releasing its special report on American Apparel, LLC.

    When Knowmore’s American Apparel entry came to the attention of CEO Dov Charney, he called to challenge our representation of his company, and demanded we take a closer look. He also offered us unprecedented access to his factory, workers, and management, which we accepted and engaged.

    The result is this report; which represents the most complete Knowmore.org entry to date, and the most comprehensive look at Charney’s controversial company ever published.

    Comment by bd — August 22, 2006 @ 9:46 pm

  4. Well at least knowmore’s report is somewhat even handed. There’s a full range of info available there. Clamor’s article seemed like window dressing, an excuse to produce oh so clever (not) parody ads. Dude’s, that shit was on flickr last year. And it was better shot and far more clever. So forget being spoon fed by Clamor. Go to Knowmore and make up your own mind. BTW, I get my AA shirts from the factory for under $4 a pop. Nice try some guy. You are sooo presumptuous!

    Comment by yawn — August 23, 2006 @ 11:02 am

  5. Ha! Wanna know what’s funny? Clamor’s T-shirts are printed on - what else? American Apparel! example

    Comment by Lindsay — August 25, 2006 @ 5:15 am

  6. know what else is funny? clamor has been clamoring for a year to get American Apparel to advertise with them. After getting rejected over and over again, that’s when they decided to produce their anti-AA screed.

    Comment by yawn — August 26, 2006 @ 11:02 pm

  7. Hey, you know what else is really funny?

    I work on the media team at American Apparel, and Clamor it dragging it’s feet on approving my comment with a simplified and abbreviated explanation of factual errors in their “expose.” We sent an expanded version to Clamor editors on Thursay, but they haven’t done anything about it yet, and their blog readers wanted to see what the hooply was about, so I tried to post this (fragment — for whole thread go here)

    Union Drive:

    Clamor’s assertion that that American Apparel “denied the union access or neutrality at the factory” is false. In fact, Dov Charney refused to impose the unionization, but he told UNITE representatives that he would not stand in the way of holding elections on the issue. He invited UNITE to pick a date on which to hold elections, and to choose whatever third-party monior UNITE wanted to monitor the elections. UNITE chose not to hold elections.
    National Labor Relations Board found no wrongdoing by Dov Charney or American Apparel’s management in the matter of the unfair labor practices claim filed by UNITE against American Apparel.

    Sexual Harrasment Allegations:

    Clamor talks about the sexual harassment lawsuits that have been filed against Dov Charney, but ignores the fact that two of those lawsuits have been dismissed by the plaintiffs with prejudice and without any finding of liability by Charney or anyone else at American Apparel. In addition, none of the lawsuits allege that Charney engaged in a sexual relationship or that he inappropriately fondled any of the plaintiffs involved.

    Other:

    The statetement that American Apparel possesses a textile factory “straight out of the ’40s” is false. The building where most manufacturing happens was built in 1920, and was adapted by American Apparel to house a very up-to-date garment factory.

    Clamor improperly attributes to Charney the statement that most domesticated violence is initiated by women.

    Clamor reported that American Apparel only used the term “Sweatshop Free” after Sweat X opened. This is false.

    The statement that “Cynthia Semon of the media-relations desk at American Apparel was contacted for this article and initially replied, but was unresponsive to questions poses” is flatly untrue. One of the writers sent Cynthia two e-mails. She responded to the first one with her own full contact information and a request that the writer provide full contact information for himself. The writer replied with his first name only, and when Cynthia failed to see anyone by that name mentioned on Clamor’s website she assumed the e-mail was a prank and took no further action. Clamor made no further effort to contact Cynthia, or any other American Apparel employee who deals with media.

    Comment by Weronika Cwir — August 28, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  8. Clamor says that they stand by the story as-is. Which means that we believe you, Weronika, or we believe them. And as you are part of the American Apparel PR department, your credibility is a tad suspect.

    Comment by Jake — August 28, 2006 @ 10:10 pm

  9. Fair enough, Jake, if you assume that Clamor writers are journalists and I am a flack, then, prima facie, their version of events is correct and mine is spin.

    Though I think that their censure of my comments on their blog undermines their credibility as journalists. At least a tad.

    Comment by Weronika Cwir — August 29, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  10. So I read the thread to the link you posted, and you said this.

    As for the phonecall, all I can do is speculate, and if it came from Dov Charney, it is possible that it said something obscene and dangerous-sounding. I have had him threaten me with “cutting off my penis and fucking my wife” (and I am a woman!) for failing to re-schedule one of his appointments. What can I say? He can say bizzare stuff when you push a button. I find it hillarious, but that’s because I know him; other’s might find it uncomfortable.

    What the hell?

    Comment by John — September 1, 2006 @ 9:20 am

  11. Another commenter asked me by an unrelated incident that happened before I started working at AA, and I offered my explanation, that’s all. And it is true, Dov Charney swears like a sailor. He makes up inventive and absurd and rude stuff and injects it into conversation. I find it funny. He finds it funny too, and he can take it like he dishes it out. If you want to discuss this more, e-mail me at weronika@amerincanapparel.net — it has nothing to do with this thread, which is about Clamor and AA. Clamor did not even communicate with Dov.

    Comment by Weronika Cwir — September 1, 2006 @ 11:33 am

  12. For another interesting discussion, see the Clamor blog. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid to post to blogs and challenge nasty corporate PR folks so it would be nice to continue this conversation in one central location.

    Comment by Ganapati — September 2, 2006 @ 7:14 am

  13. You know what? I just read the web site that the word sleazy in your post hyperlinks to - Jewlicious actually argues that Dov Charney is a pretty good guy. Jewlicious started off kinda ridiculing Charney and then turned around after doing some research and totally changed their minds. Imagine that!

    Comment by yawn — September 6, 2006 @ 3:02 am

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