No Sweat

Buying a garment labeled ?Made in the USA? doesn?t guarantee
that the item wasn?t manufactured in a sweatshop. In fact, of the
5,000 American apparel contractors ?most of which are located in
Los Angeles?only six are union shops, reports Christine Triano in
Whole Life Times. Half of these manufacturers have been
charged with serious health and safety violations, and 60 percent
have been found guilty of wage and time violations.

These alarming statistics caught the attention of the Hot Fudge
Social Venture Fund, a venture capital firm investing in socially
conscious enterprises, co-founded by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry?s
Ice Cream. ?It was a direct response to the business climate that
led the Hot Fudge Fund to hatch a radical business plan: to launch
a unionized, worker-owned apparel manufacturing business in LA –
and to turn a profit in the process,? writes Triano. That mission
led to the creation of a teamX, the company that manufactures
sweatX brand active wear.

In its first year of business, teamX generated about $1 million
in sales?not enough to be profitable, but enough to almost break
even. The company has since expanded from 20 employees to its
current staff of 57. Factory workers operate top-of-the-line sewing
machines and cutters that keep the air clean. Plant shifts start at
7 a.m. and end 3:30 p.m. Employees are paid overtime for any
additional hours. Employees earn an average wage of $10.78 per hour
plus health insurance and paid vacation, a package that ?far
exceeds the industry standard.? TeamX is structured as a
co-operative and has placed an eight-to-one ratio cap on executive
to entry-level pay. The company expects to be in the
black?projecting $3 million in profits?by the end of its second
?Erin Ferdinand

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