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It's no sweat for these firms
In an Industry with a history of sweatshops, two garment companies are convinced they can make money without underpaying or over-working employees.
AM New York
May 6, 2004

American Apparel and SweatX. which specialize in T-shirts and other casual clothes, are marketing them-selves as "sweatshop-free" to boost sales among young consumers.

Being socially responsible isn't easy in a business like the garment trade, which has low profit margins and customers more interested in price than politics. Some industry analysts say success could lie in the right mix of style and social consciousness.

"There is a bit of a grass-roots movement because of the younger generation that does their homework about where their clothes come from," said Marshall Cohen, a fashion and retail analyst for the market research firm NPD Group. "They're willing to endorse products when the message is a good message."

At Los Angeles-based American Apparel, the average pay among the 1,700 workers on the sewing floor is about $12.50 an hour, nearly twice the state minimum wage of $6.75, CEO Dov Charney said. Workers also get paid vacation days and health benefits for $8 a week.

SweatX was founded by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees in 2002 with $l.5 million from the Hot Fudge Social Venture Fund established by Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen. Workers at the Los Angeles-based firm make $10.60 an hour while getting medical coverage and two weeks of paid vacation a year.

Among the supporters of the company are the popular rock band Foo Fighters.