WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded the Ralph Lauren Corp. for designing the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic uniforms using only domestic manufacturers and craftsmen. After a July 2012 report that Team USA’s summer uniforms were made in China, Brown led Senate efforts to urge the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to utilize domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including this year’s games in Russia. The uniforms recently unveiled are the culmination of this and other likeminded efforts.
“Ralph Lauren Corp.’s decision was the right thing for America’s manufacturers, athletes, and fans of the Olympic Games” Brown said. “Thanks to this decision, our athletes—and the apparel they wear—will represent America. Manufacturing helped make this country great, which is why it’s such an embarrassment that Chinese factories were used to manufacture Team USA’s opening ceremony uniforms in 2012. The 2014 uniforms help support American manufacturing and job creation, and prove to the world that we have the capacity to make high-end apparel right here at home.”
Following the Olympic uniform report, Brown first called on the USOC to utilize American clothing makers for this year’s and future Olympic Games. Soon after, Brown led a group of senators in writing to the USOC, asking that it meet with American manufacturers for future uniform demands, and offered to connect the USOC with such manufactures. Following these efforts, Ralph Lauren decided in October 2013 that Team USA’s uniforms would be American made this year.
Brown continues to lead the fight for “Buy American” provisions. Brown is the author of the Wear American Act. Current law only requires federal government agencies to purchase textile products that are 51 percent American made. Brown’s bill, however, 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. It would also ensure taxpayer dollars aren’t used to purchase goods made with child labor in substandard to intolerable working conditions. Recent press reports 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 in factories with gross human rights violations. But because Ralph Lauren agreed to use only domestic manufacturers and craftsmen, it assured that Team USA’s uniforms were not made in similar conditions.
Brown’s July 2012 letter to the USOC can be read in its entirety below:
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.