CLEVELAND, OH – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a new clothing company, The Wahconah Group, who announced that he will expand and open his headquarters in Cleveland where he plans to hire up to 200 new employees. Brown also announced a plan that would create more jobs in the domestic textile industry by ensuring that the U.S. government “Buy American” and stop using our taxpayer dollars to purchase products made overseas using child labor.
“Cleveland has a rich and proud history in the apparel industry and a workforce that is second-to-none,” Brown said. “It is excellent news that the Wahconah Group has decided to make Cleveland its headquarters. I believe that the company will find the support it needs to succeed, grow, and create more jobs in Ohio.
“But in order to create more domestic jobs in the textile industry,” Brown continued, “the U.S. government should only use American taxpayer dollars to purchase clothing made in the U.S.A., not with child labor overseas.”
Brown was joined by Issac Crawford, CEO of The Wahconah Group, who announced that his company will expand and move its headquarters to the 82,000 sq. ft., former Goodwill facility in Cleveland. The Wahconah Group plans to hire up to 200 new employees at the new headquarters which will house a customer service call-center, design studio, sampling and apparel prototyping, central warehouse and distribution, and small scale apparel manufacturing. The company is also planning to hold a local jobs fair in March.
Founded in 2011, The Wahconah Group designs, sources, manufactures, and sells apparel through a multiple lifestyle brand strategy that includes licensed brands, owned brands, tailored clothing with a focus on men’s apparel, and private labeling/contract manufacturing. While the company has an international focus and supply chain, the company is committed to expanding American based apparel manufacturing capabilities, providing jobs in the United States, and expanding its “Made in America” network consortium.
“The Wahconah Group works globally and has developed an international supply chain,” Crawford said. “However, we firmly believe in ‘Made in America’ and are committed to reestablishing American based manufacturing capabilities to provide jobs in the United States, with Cleveland as its hub.”
In order to create more of these local jobs in the textile industry, Brown will introduce the Wear American Act. Current law only requires federal agencies to purchase textile products that are 51 percent American made, but Brown’s bill would require all textile products purchased by federal agencies to be made in the United States. This would create domestic jobs and potentially benefit local businesses. Specifically, the Wear American Act would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require Federal agencies to procure textiles and apparel articles—including the components for such articles—that are manufactured in the United States entirely from articles, materials, or supplies mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States.
Brown’s effort follows recent press reports that have cited a lack of federal government oversight and disclosure as it relates to its purchase of products made overseas. The federal government, in fact, spends more than $1.5 billion a year on foreign-made products, with too many made using child labor in substandard to intolerable working conditions. That is why earlier this month, Brown urged the General Services Administration (GSA), which makes purchases for the federal government, to set a global example and ensure that American federal agencies are aware of and take working conditions into account when making purchases oversees. To achieve this, Brown requested that the GSA detail its efforts to monitor these conditions, track the factory locations of its contractors and subcontractors, and lawfully disclose this information to Congress.
“It’s not in the interest of American jobs, American taxpayers, or global human rights when our government procures goods from factories with records of blatant international labor violations,” Brown said. “But the limited enforcement actions our government has at its disposal are undermined by a simple lack of disclosure. American taxpayers deserve to know the addresses of factories receiving contracts before they are awarded.”
Brown continues to lead the fight to ensure that the U.S. federal government “Buys American” when it makes purchases and funds projects. The Buy America Act, which Brown also is a proponent of, requires the U.S. government to use American-made products. The Act further allows for preferential treatment to domestically produced materials used for mass-transit-related projects which are funded through the federal government. Last year, Brown successfully amended the highway bill and water infrastructure bill to strengthen “Buy America” provisions by closing existing loopholes.
In July 2012, following a report that Team USA’s uniforms were made in China, Brown called on the U.S. Olympic Committee to utilize American clothing manufacturers for its summer Olympic uniforms and use domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including the 2014 Winter Games. In October 2013, following Brown’s call, the Ralph Lauren Corp. decided to only use domestic craftsmen and manufacturers for Team USA’s ceremonial uniforms for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.