WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded a decision by Ralph Lauren Corp. to use only domestic craftsmen and manufacturers for the Team USA Olympic uniforms that will be worn for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. In July 2012, following a report that Team USA’s uniforms were made in China, Sen. Brown called on the U.S. Olympic Committee to utilize American clothing manufacturers for the summer Olympic uniforms and use domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including the 2014 Winter Games. Brown also introduced 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.”
“Today’s decision by Ralph Lauren Corp. is excellent news 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 uniforms in 2012. The 2014 uniforms will help support American manufacturing and job creation, and will prove to the world that we have the capacity to make high-end apparel right here at home.”
In July 2012, 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. Soon after, 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.
In July 2012, Brown introduced the Wear American Act of 2012, which 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.
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 in 2011. 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. 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’s letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee 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.