WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following an ABC News report revealing that Team U.S.A.’s Olympic uniforms for the Opening Ceremony are made in China, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is calling 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, which will be held in Russia. The uniforms cost $1,945 for men, and $1,473 for women, and include items such as a $495 shirt and a $498 skirt.
“If awards were given out for breaking trade laws, China would win the gold medal. The U.S Olympic Committee’s use of Chinese-made apparel is particularly egregious due to the ongoing and unfair competition that China poses to American manufacturers,” Brown said. “Our athletes—and the apparel they wear—should represent America. We know how to make things in America, which is why it’s such an embarrassment that Chinese factories were used to manufacture Team U.S.A’s uniforms. The U.S. Olympic Committee should take steps to ensure that domestic clothing makers are used for Olympic uniforms—if possible, for this summer’s Games, and for future contests, including the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“China’s illegal trade practices, including currency manipulation, only add insult to injury to American manufacturers. While athletes aren’t allowed to cheat, China is. This is one ‘performance-enhancing’ practice that must be addressed by the Obama Administration as soon as possible,” Brown added.
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, a strong supporter of American textile manufacturing, 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 and Braley’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.
Brown has also been a strong supporter of efforts to maintain the Wool Tariff Trust Fund, which levels the playing field for American textile and apparel manufacturers. The “wool trust fund” provides relief for U.S. suit makers and is funded by tariffs on wool imports. It encourages the manufacture of high-quality wool suits—like the ones made at Hugo Boss—and helps preserve American textile jobs.
The text of the letter is below and can be seen here.
Mr. Lawrence F. Probst, III
U.S. Olympic Committee
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Dear Mr. Probst:
The Olympics provide an opportunity to showcase our national pride. As the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has proudly noted, it is Americans, not their government, who send athletes to the Olympics. But despite Americans sending these athletes to the Olympics, I was extremely disappointed to learn that they will be outfitted by the Chinese during the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Not only does the United States have any number of manufacturers capable of outfitting our athletes, they are in a competition with the Chinese that is anything but fair. If gold medals were awarded for dodging international trade laws – China would sweep.
Millions of American jobs have been lost to this unfair competition. Rather than ignoring this issue, the USOC should find a manufacturer from among the dozens of sportswear companies, including Hugo Boss’ facility in Cleveland, Ohio. These facilities utilize American workers to produce high-quality and affordable products.
All too often, China has engaged in unfair trade practices such as export subsidies, currency manipulation, and domestic content requirements. China’s refusal to adhere to World Trade Organization rules – to which our businesses and workers must conform – continue to stack the deck against American manufacturers. In addition, the Chinese government has done little to promote human rights, protect workers, and meet minimum environmental standards.
The USOC holds its athletes to a high moral and ethical standard, and does not tolerate cheating or violating rules. But China continues to cheat when it comes to international trade. As we work to achieve a level playing field for American manufacturers and workers, the USOC should act immediately to find a domestic manufacturer for this year’s uniforms. I would also like to meet with you to discuss domestic apparel sourcing and urge you to enact policies to ensure that our nation’s athletes wear clothing that is Made-in-America in the 2014 Olympic Games.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to your prompt response.