California clothing manufacturers fleeing minimum wage hike

A fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage is coming to California, so break out the champagne and let’s get this party started! Unless you work in the apparel manufacturing industry, that is, in which case you may want to start looking for some cheaper drinks since you’ll likely be out of a job soon. Once the home to a large segment of the American clothing manufacturing industry, California apparel manufacturers have already been hit by skyrocketing commercial real estate value and rising supply chain costs, but another spike in their labor rates will apparently be the final straw for some of them who are still holding on. (Los Angeles Times)

Now, Los Angeles firms are facing another big hurdle — California’s minimum wage hitting $15 an hour by 2022 — which could spur more garment makers to exit the state.

Last week American Apparel, the biggest clothing maker in Los Angeles, said it might outsource the making of some garments to another manufacturer in the U.S., and wiped out about 500 local jobs. The company still employs about 4,000 workers in Southern California.

“The exodus has begun,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands and a former director at Forever 21. “The garment industry is gradually shrinking and that trend will likely continue.”

The hits to American Apparel are particularly disappointing since they were one of the few “Made in the USA” success stories in that industry for the past couple of decades. Seeing them wipe out one ninth of their labor force in a single week isn’t just an indicator of weak prospects… it’s a disaster. And they aren’t alone, sadly. The LA Times also interviewed Felix Seo, the owner of Joompy. He produces custom clothing and used to do a brisk trade in SoCal, but said that the cost to sew a single dress is going from $5.00 to $6.50 and his, “customer doesn’t want to pay that, so I can’t sell it anymore.”

Felix won’t be able to look to the unions or any liberal activist groups for help either. They’ve recently begun to acknowledge that rapid increases in labor costs are going to result in a lot of people losing their jobs, but they’re okay with that. The workers at Joompy (along with many others in industries who create jobs for lower skill and education level labor) are collateral damage in a war being waged by the SJW and, hey… sometimes when you’re making an omelet you’ve got to break a few eggs.

There may be some sectors in the garment district who don’t take much of a hit from this. We’re talking about Southern California after all. Boutique companies who produce ten thousand dollar dresses for starlets to wear on the red carpet can no doubt go on cranking out the creations which look like parade floats mounted on human beings and their customers won’t notice if the price goes up by twenty bucks. But if you’re trying to sell clothing to the working poor, that will spell the end of your market run when you’re competing against China and Mexico.

But you keep right on Fighting For 15, folks. I’m sure it will all work out in the end, right?