Free trade and garment work: the impact of NAFTA on service and manufacturing jobs in the Los Angeles apparel industry


This article examines the impact of North American economic integration on apparel‐related employment in Los Angeles and provides a first look at consequent changes in the composite of apparel‐related occupations in the Los Angeles apparel industry. It assesses the effects of new NAFTA‐generated transnational production networks and global production strategies on apparel industry employment, including the creation of ‘new NAFTA jobs’in the greater Los Angeles area, as well as changes in hiring patterns across occupational categories. The article also explores the accessibility of NAFTA‐generated apparel jobs to displaced workers in the labor‐intensive segments of the industry. The findings suggest that the new NAFTA jobs are inaccessible to the thousands of apparel manufacturing workers displaced by the trend in offshore sourcing. Finally, the article discusses the implications and consequences of recent state‐industry partnership programs designed to train and cross‐train sewing operators for jobs that are rapidly leaving the region.