American Apparel awarded $28 million Army coat contractPublished 7:21pm Monday, March 18, 2013
Orrville resident Rebecca Lawson has been working at American Apparel for the past 21 years. Seated in a noisy manufacturing warehouse, Lawson sews together sleeves of Army combat coats, known as ACU’s. In the fall of 2012 American Apparel put out bids for an ACU contract and was outbid by SNC an Alaskan Native Corporation. American Apparel is just now sewing out the tail end of their last contract and has about two more weeks to finish — meaning Lawson, and several employees like her, came within two weeks of not having a job.
That’s because last week American Apparel was awarded a subcontract that will allow the Selma plant to continue producing ACU’s, which will allow the employment level in Selma to remain around 200 people. Without the subcontract, American Apparel General Manager Roy Ezell said that employment level would have dropped 50 percent.
Of the three coats American Apparel produces in Selma, the major source of work has been on the ACU, Ezell said.
When they lost the account last fall, Ezell said they protested the contract because, “We felt the government did not take into account all the things they should have.”
The Defensive Logistic Agency, which is the part of government that issues clothing contracts, reviewed the protest and denied the claim.
“At that point we filed a lawsuit in the federal district court, saying we don’t agree with DLA,” Ezell said, before adding that before the court case even came to the floor they were able to reach a settlement between American Apparel and SNC, who won the contract.
“We entered into a subcontracting agreement with the native Alaskan corporation and subsequently the DLA, because we had to have their approval to be their subcontractor,” Ezell said.
The five-year contract, which went into effect last week, states that during the first year American Apparel would be subcontracted one half of the quantity given to SNC. The second year American Apparel would have one third.
“Bottom line,” Ezell said, “if you look at year one, we get 50 percent; year two where we get 33 percent — the anticipated level for that would be about $28 million.”
Ezell said the contract will allow them to continuing working at the current rate that they’re working now, which he said is a production of 6,000 ACU’s for a year, and the second year would be about 4,500 units.
Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority said this is good news for American Apparel and good news for Selma.
“I’m excited about the news,” he said. “It should at least stop the bleeding and give them time to possibly find other contracts and bring folks back in.”
Varadman said the EDA has been working closely with the company as well as the governor’s office and is pleased that they were able to do what they have.
“The owners of the company and the executives have put in a lot of effort and done a real good job of taking a bad situation and making it into a good situation. And really that’s the bottom line,” Vardaman said.
“The good news is we just got cutwork on the new contract, which will tail in behind [the remained contract]. But had we not gotten the new contract, in about two weeks we would only be sewing the Marine Corps and the [Navy] coats out here, which means about two thirds of the folks who will be working would not have been working,” Ezell said.
“American Apparel is critically important to Selma and provides employment for so many hardworking men and women,” U.S. Rep Terri Sewell said Monday night. “And though I was deeply disappointed by the recent layoffs, I am encouraged that a new subcontract has been put in place to prevent further layoffs and preserve jobs.”
Sewell added that she recently joined U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to meet with DLA Vice Admiral Harnitcheck and top officials of the procurement team to discuss the future of American Apparel and how to protect these vital jobs in the community.
“As always, my office remains committed to continuing to work with the [DLA] to address these pressing concerns while working to ensure these crucial jobs remain in the 7th Congressional District of Alabama, the state of Alabama and this nation,” Sewell said.