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Behind the Label

Inequality in the Los Angeles Apparel Industry

Edna Bonacich (Author), Richard Appelbaum (Author)


Paperback, 413 pages
ISBN: 9780520225060
June 2000
$30.95, £21.95
In a study crucial to our understanding of American social inequality, Edna Bonacich and Richard Appelbaum investigate the return of sweatshops to the apparel industry, especially in Los Angeles. The "new" sweatshops, they say, need to be understood in terms of the decline in the American welfare state and its strong unions and the rise in global and flexible production. Apparel manufacturers now have the incentive to move production to wherever low-wage labor can be found, while maintaining arm's-length contractual relations that protect them from responsibility. The flight of the industry has led to a huge rise in apparel imports to the United States and to a decline in employment.

Los Angeles, however, remains a puzzling exception in that its industry employment has continued to grow, to the point where L.A. is the largest center of apparel production in the nation. Not only the availability of low-wage immigrant (often undocumented) workers but also the focus on moderately priced, fashion-sensitive women's wear makes this possible. Behind the Label examines the players in the L.A. apparel industry, including manufacturers, retailers, contractors, and workers, evaluating the maldistribution of wealth and power. The authors explore government and union efforts to eradicate sweatshops while limiting the flight to Mexico and elsewhere, and they conclude with a description of the growing antisweatshop movement.

Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Book of 2000
Edna Bonacich is Professor of Sociology and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of many books including Global Production: The Apparel Industry in the Pacific Rim (1994). Richard Appelbaum, Professor of Sociology and Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is
the author of States and Development in the Asian Pacific Rim (1995).
"Behind the Label should become the definitive work on the apparel industry. . . a goldmine for researchers and for members of the public who want to know how this industry works."—Robert J. S. Ross, coauthor of Global Capitalism

“Bonacich, Appelbaum, and their collaborators have plunged deep into the labyrinth of the Los Angeles garment industry. They have returned both well-informed and appalled by what they have seen. Here they share observations, conclusions, and recommendations that will stir concern for the conditions of low-wage workers everywhere.”—Charles Tilly, author of Durable Inequality

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