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L.A.'s Rag Trade Faces Grim Outlook


Today's L.A. Times Business section has an alarming story about the downturn in the city's garment industry. The plight of L.A.'s rag trade seldom gets the spotlight that, say, Hollywood's shifting fortunes receive, and even though their industry provides a powerful economic generator for the county, clothing manufacturers claim they are treated as poor relations by the powers that be -- notably those in City Hall who may bend over backward to keep movie and TV studios from filming out of town.

"We support 120,000 jobs in the county," Lonnie Kane, the CEO of Karen Kane Inc. told the L.A. Weekly for a profile last year. "But overall, there's a complete lack of support. Politicians avoid the industry because it isn't unionized."

The Times piece, written by Alana Semuels, notes that the local garment industry has been battered by weak consumer demand during the recession, the disappearance of tariffs on textile imports and increased government focus on illegal aliens in the workplace. Recently, wildly popular, youth-skewed American Apparel announced it was dismissing 1,500  undocumented workers out of its 5,600-member factory force -- at the same time the downtown-based company has been hit by declining store sales.

"As recently as a decade ago," writes Semuels, "downtown L.A.'s apparel

industry was thriving. At the peak in 1996, more than 119,000 textile

and apparel workers toiled in the Los Angeles County industry, the

nation's largest."