WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following the news that the Olympic opening ceremony uniforms that will be worn by American athletes are entirely made in China—spurring bipartisan outrage and resulting in new commitments by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to make 2014 uniforms in America—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced a new effort to boost domestic apparel and textile manufacturing. Brown is introducing a “Buy America” plan to ensure that the federal government purchases apparel that is 100-percent American made. Current Buy America statutes require that only 51 percent of these products purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars be “made in America.”
“Manufacturing helped make this country great. Good-paying manufacturing jobs have allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to buy homes, send their children to college, and retire with security. But for too long, we've seen American manufacturing jobs—including textile and apparel jobs—shipped overseas due to unfair trade that has stacked the deck against American workers,” Brown said. “We know how to make things in America, and the textile sector employs more than half a million workers in the United States—which is why the federal government should be purchasing, whenever possible, apparel that is domestically produced. With our widening trade deficit, we should be doing everything we can to support American manufacturing and job creation.”
Brown was joined by Nanette Lepore, a native of Youngstown, who began her fashion line in New York City in 1992. She continues to use American manufacturing facilities to make her clothing line, which is sold in stores and boutiques across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Lawson Nickol, the founder of the All American Clothing Company in Darke County, also joined Brown on the call. Nickol, who addressed the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee meeting in Washington at Brown’s invitation today, discussed his experience as an Ohio small business owner competing in the apparel industry. Nickol founded All American Clothing Company in 2002 after learning that his previous employer was outsourcing some of its work to Mexico. The company has experienced growth every year since its inception. Nickol now has plans to expand the business and create more jobs in southwest Ohio.
“Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio I watched what happens when manufacturing jobs leave our shores. Manufacturing in the United States is an economic solution, and it has always been a smart and ethical business practice for my company,” Nanette Lepore said. “Senator Brown’s “Buy America” policy is vital, and will create more jobs in the American factories that need it now.”
Brown’s bill, the Wear American Act of 2012, would revise an existing law requiring that 51 percent of federal agency purchases of textiles and apparel be made on products made in the United States, and require that textile and apparel articles acquired for use by federal agencies be manufactured from articles, materials, or supplies entirely grown, produced, or manufactured in the United States. It would provide flexibility to federal agencies in the event that such textiles and apparel are either not sufficient or unavailable for production in the United States.
Following the report on the Olympic uniforms, Brown called on the U.S. Olympic Committee to utilize American clothing manufacturers for this year’s uniforms and use domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including the 2014 Winter Games. The 2012 uniforms cost $1,945 for men, and $1,473 for women, and include items such as a $495 shirt and a $498 skirt. Today, following a meeting with USOC Chairman Scott Blackmun and Chairman of the Board Larry Probst, Brown led a group of senators on a letter to the USOC asking it to meet with American manufacturers for future USOC uniform demands, and offering to connect the USOC with these manufacturers.
Brown is the author of the Currency Exchange and Oversight Reform Act, legislation that represents the biggest bipartisan jobs bill—at no cost to U.S. taxpayers—passed by the Senate last year. The legislation would allow the U.S. government to stand up for American jobs when China cheats by manipulating its currency to give its exports an unfair advantage. Brown is also the sponsor of the All-American Flag Act, which would require the federal government to purchase 100 percent made-in-America flags. Annin and Company, the nation’s oldest and largest flagmaker, currently employs more than 500 workers nationwide. The company’s manufacturing and distribution facility is located in Coshocton, Ohio. The federal government is currently required to purchase flags made from 50 percent American-made materials; Brown’s bill would require the government to buy flags that are entirely produced with American-made materials.
Brown has also fought to save jobs at Cleveland’s Hugo Boss facility, the company’s only American-based plant. Less than two years ago, the Cleveland facility teetered on the brink of closure. Hugo Boss and Workers United agreed to a new contract that has resulted in a renewed life for the facility; in July 2010, Brown joined Hugo Boss workers to celebrate the ‘first suit off the line’ at the company’s Brooklyn, Ohio plant. According to Hugo Boss, since 2010, the Cleveland facility has achieved efficiency and quality ratings that are unparalleled in the industry. Brown worked closely with Workers United and Hugo Boss to keep the plant open, and in March 2012, Brown announced that the company and its employees had ratified a new, three-year labor contract that will preserve the company’s more than 150 manufacturing jobs in the Cleveland area. The agreement also provides for a new “Made to Order” clothing production for North America this fall. If successful, this new production work could bring additional jobs to the Brooklyn facility.