People don't make plastic bags, machines do. I know that it takes people to run and maintain the machines then package the bags to be shipped but it is a highly automated process. On the other hand, people do make reusable bags. Quality reusable bags are stitched one at a time by someone operating a sewing machine.
In Los Angeles, the plastics industry claims that a "ban on plastic bags threatens the jobs of the 1,000 hard-working employees of Los Angeles area plastic bag manufacturers." That's scary, or maybe it is more appropriate to call it a scare tactic. One reason it's tough to believe is that plastic bag manufacturers are typically well diversified and make a variety of bags and film products. The manufacturers ahead of the curve are already making reusable bags out of recycled materials. Some LA area bag manufacturers are also on the confirmed compliant list of reusable bag suppliers in places with existing ordinances, such as for the Los Angeles County unincorporated areas and San Francisco.
At hearings for the LA bag ban, a number of plastics manufacturers came in claiming job loss while further research showed that some of them do not make plastic checkout bags covered by the ordinance! The LA City Council went to great lengths to determine how many jobs could possibly be lost by area plastic bag manufacturers due to their action and the conclusion was 15, as seen in the video below. While any job lost has an impact, a properly crafted Reusable Bag Ordinance can help create local jobs - many more than any jobs lost.
Statewide, Senator Alex Padilla authored SB 405, which would have been a plastic bag ban for the entire State of California. The bill was three votes short of passing the State Senate and job loss was a hot topic during the floor discussions. Senator Padilla closed the arguments by covering those job loss claims quite well. You can see his closing arguments here, the job loss comments begin at 3:45...
Councilmember Koretz championed the Los Angeles bag ban and is helping to coordinate a 'Million Reusable Bag Giveaway' that would employ Green Vets Los Angeles to make the bags and Homeboy Industries to screenprint them. Green Vets LA Director Jim Cragg has testified that 100,000 bags could be made in an hour by plastic bag machinery while a similar order of reusable bags would employ 40 veterans. Green Vets LA created 140 jobs in the last year and hire veterans to sew reusable bags from LA fashion district scrap fabric along with other items.
I am personally a bit concerned with reusable bags that are imported from overseas but the reality is that quality reusable bags are being made in the United States and more can be done. Green Vets LA is a great resource for Southern California while Enviro-Tote is a reusable bag company based in New Hampshire that I really like and there are many other manufacturers in between.
Bag bans and Reusable Bag Ordinances work because fewer plastic bags leads to less litter. Embracing reusable bags makes the legislation most effective. Don't be distracted by red herrings such as the claims of job loss because good businesses are already adjusting.