American Apparel Flip Flops Over Human Rights?

We have lots of tipsters: free-thinking contraantidisestablishmentarianists at the retail counter slyly noting down their bosses’ every insidious transgression against the American consumer; once soulless fat cats who have rediscovered their humanity, dramatically hurled their baby blood martinis to the floor and written us about the Mephistophelean dealings being made in Corporate America as a sort of moral atonement.

And here’s another one! We don’t know much about this anonymous tipster, except that he works for American Apparel, he uses a Mac, and he’s awfully upset about the murky history insinuated by the cheap rubber flip-flops he’s currently peddling. Specifically, the chance that they were made at the end of a bullwhip in a Thai sweatshop. Anonymous American Apparel Employee’s email after the jump.

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I’m an employee at an American Apparel Store, and I thought I’d let you guys in on a new item in our stores which is perplexing us.

The store now carries Flip Flops. But they are manufactured in Thailand. Yup, vertically integrated, sweatshop free, made in L.A. AA now carries (possibly) sweat shop made, outsourced goods. We’re all kind of confused about the move. They are not AA branded however. They come in a plastic bag with Japanese characters on the front (and a picture of a horse). We’ve been told that they’re just a ‘fun, foreign good’ and that they’re made of natural rubber, but a lot of the employees are kind of offended. One of the reasons I applied for a position at AA is their commitment to socially responsible practices in the garment industry. This seems to fly in the face of that. The kicker is that no one is giving us any info on what to say to customers if they enquire about the origins of the flip flops. So we’re in the dark on the whole situation, which makes things even more interesting.

I don’t know. I’d like to know what the rest of your readers think about this. If more info comes to light I’ll let you know.


Anonymous AA Employee

As a personal take: I’ve spent a couple months in Thailand over the last few years. Sweatshop conditions are not ubiquitous. I personally would not immediately jump to the conclusion that something being made in Thailand de facto equals exploitation.

So, I’m willing to give American Apparel the benefit of the doubt. If they have a good history encouraging sweatshop free and ethical business practices in the garment industry, I don’t see any reason to believe they’ve abandoned that over a pair of cheap flip flops. Without further information, I’d take them at their word. On the other hand, they seem to be dropping the ball on communicating with their employees, and therefore communicating with their more garment-ethical clientele. So, you know, fuck ’em.

What do you guys think?

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